Joseph E. Grey II is an artist, designer, art director, and writer. Now retired, he achieved an award winning career working with such notable clients as RCA, Elizabeth Arden, Noxzema, Esso (Exxon), General Motors, and Cover Girl. Beginning as a freelance illustrator and designer in the 1950s, he became one of the earliest, if not the first, African Americans to work professionally in the advertising business in New York City. Throughout his illustration and ad career he also pursued a body of independent works, first as an abstract artist, then later working representationally to depict various areas of interest including music, religion, family, Native American culture, and his time in Jamaica.
From musician to abstract painter to illustrator and graphic designer, this exhibition explores the course of Grey’s art through his earliest abstract paintings to his latest watercolors. The show also features numerous examples of his work as a professional illustrator and creative director, highlighting his pioneering presence in the New York advertising world.
Joseph Grey II was born in 1927, and grew up in Plain City, Ohio, a community of about 1,500 people and only four Black families. He enjoyed art as a child, especially drawing and mapmaking, but his biggest passion was for Jazz. When he graduated third in his class in 1944, he was an avid trumpet player and aspiring composer, so enrolled at Ohio State University to study music. During his finals, he flubbed his performance due to severe stage fright, forcing him to re-examine his pursuit of music. He chose art, and enrolled in the commercial art department at the Columbus College of Art and Design (then the Columbus Art School) in 1948.
After graduation, Grey worked briefly for an ad agency in Columbus, but tales of New York City proved irresistible, and he found work designing forms and pamphlets for the New York Housing Authority. Grey was able to gradually pick up freelance work, including at RCA Records, but as an African American, full-time employment in the ad business continued to elude him. His talent and drive soon broke barriers, and he moved from freelance to full-time work with some of the top firms in the city, including Hockaday and McCann Erickson.
By the close of his career, Joseph Grey II was an award winning artist, writer, and advertising director, a trail blazing professional whose work helped to break down racial barriers in one of the most influential cities in the world.
Gallery Talk with Artist Joseph Grey Thursday, February 24
6:00 pm Ad Man artist Joseph Grey will talk about his work in the exhibition gallery. Light refreshments. Cash bar. Free and open to the public.
A + for Educators: Illustrations by Patricia Polacco
January 31 through May 12, 2019
Alcoa Foundation/Ernest and Marjorie Cooper Gallery
Patricia Polacco is well known for her beautifully written and illustrated books that weave stories from her life into pages that have captured the imaginations of generations of readers. This exhibition highlights a selection of her books that celebrate and honor educators that made a difference in her life. Each book addresses a piece of Patricia’s childhood, from bullying, to learning difficulties, to teachers that pushed her to be her very best. Her books are honest and sometimes raw, exposing themes or issues that can be difficult to confront. This collection of stories is a striking reminder of the importance that good educators can play in a child’s life.
The exhibition features original art for Thank you, Mr. Falker, An A from Miss Keller, The Art of Miss Chew, The Lemonade Club, The Junkyard Wonders, Mr. Lincoln’s Way, and Mr. Wayne’s Masterpiece.
Thursday, January 31, 5:30 – 8:00 pm
Bring the kids to enjoy the opening of an exhibition of all original artwork by a family favorite illustrator. Patricia Polacco! A+ for Educators celebrates great teachers everywhere. The night will include remarks from our MMA Assistant Director Catherine Mott, followed by a reading of one of Polacco’s books on display. (Be sure to purchase a book in the Museum Store and bring it back to be signed by Patricia Polacoo herself in April!) Event is free and open to the public. Cookies and cocoa provided.
Conduct Becoming: A Survey of Distinction is an ongoing photo essay project that captures and preserves the stories of United States military veterans. These powerful photographs depict former service men and women in their personal settings, contrasting the uniformity of the military with the myriad details of self-expression.
Conduct Becoming is the creation of professional photographer CJ Breil. His images take the viewer into the homes and personal surroundings of U.S. military veterans, offering a look at the personal and private, the complex individual in contrast to the uniformity of the soldier. When effective military service and performance requires self to be set aside in favor of discipline and conformity, what is lost and what is gained? And what happens to the individual when they return to the civilian world? Breil doesn’t provide the answers, instead allowing the subject’s life to reveal itself through the unveiling of visual cues brought about by observation and empathy.
In Breil’s photographs, veterans sit or stand within their own spaces, surrounded by the everyday objects of their lives. Typically, either in their hands or nearby, a photograph of the subject in service uniform rests. Separated by time and circumstance, the service image reveals a person that no longer exists, yet whose memories and experiences continue to impact the life of the contemporary sitter. As the project grew, it also began to encompass issues of sexual and gender identity, revealing the experiences of gay and transgender troops before, during, and after the era of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Breil’s striking and compelling images of Conduct Becoming both serve and celebrate the men and women of the United States Armed Forces, and ask the viewer to not only remember their sacrifices, but invite them to witness and understand their personal narratives.
C.J. Breil has been a fine art, editorial, and news photographer for over 19 years, a career that has taken him around the world. Breil graduated from the College of Creative Studies in Detroit with a B.F.A. in 1995, and lived in Korea, Turkey, and Greece before settling in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His award winning photography has appeared in books, magazines, newspapers, and in galleries and museums both locally and internationally.
Gallery Talk with Artist C.J. Breil Thursday, January 10, 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Meet C.J. Breil, the artist behind Conduct Becoming, for a gallery talk around his photography exhibition. FREE and open to the public.
Sons: Seeing the Modern African American Male
December 13 through March 10, 2019
Sons: Seeing the Modern African American Male features images of Black men from the Muskegon community as photographed by artist Jerry Taliaferro.
In the artist’s words:
“[The exhibition] is both timely and relevant. Recent events point to the urgent need for conversations about the contemporary Black American male. Any effort, however humble, to foster an understanding of this largely misunderstood and often marginalized segment of the American population is of utmost importance.”
The 94 portraits in the exhibition explore how the Black American male perceives himself and how he is perceived by others. The men pictured in the exhibition were nominated from the Greater Muskegon area by a committee of their peers. The goal was to portray a wide range of ages, backgrounds, occupations, and interests to best represent the Black men of our community and to mirror the day-to-day experiences of their fellow Americans.
The men pictured are artists, musicians, barbers, doctors, lawyers, health care workers, engineers, entrepreneurs, businessmen, teachers, athletes, retired servicemen, clergy, poets, factory workers, laborers, security guards, school administrators, and coaches. They are also husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, co-workers, teammates, friends, and neighbors.
Sons: Seeing the Modern African American Male is an invitation to share the experiences of the Black men in our city, to see them as individuals, hear their stories, and better understand how their lives have been impacted by a legacy of racial and social injustices. In bringing this exhibition to Muskegon, it is the hope of the Sons Committee and the staff and Board of Trustees of the Muskegon Museum of Art that we can foster an open and welcoming dialogue that leads to greater understanding, empathy, and community.
EXHIBITION VIDEO PREVIEW
The exhibition project includes special programming, including the premier of the documentary Black Man, created by Jon Covington, in partnership with the Muskegon Museum of Art. December 17 Film Premiere at Frauenthal Center
Jerry Taliaferro was born in the small southern town of Brownsville, Tennessee. After graduating high school in May 1972, he joined the Army. He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1973 and graduated as a member of the Class of 1977. Taliaferro’s interest in photography began when he was posted to Fort Bragg, North Carolina for Special Forces training in 1981. While serving in Germany, his interest in photography continued, and in 1985 he was published for the first time when a Munich magazine purchased the rights to one of his images. After returning to the United States in the summer of 1985, Jerry began doing assignments for advertising and design firms. In July 1988, he left the military and began his pursuit of a career in commercial photography. Over the ensuing years, his interest turned more to fine art photography. This change in direction has resulted in several projects and published pieces. Women of a New Tribe, a photographic study of the spiritual and physical beauty of black women, is one of his latest projects. Jerry Taliaferro currently resides in Charlotte, NC.
Special thanks to the members of our Sons Committee, without which this exhibition would not have been possible: Andrew Sims, Arthur Garner, Bernard Loudermill, Chris Dean, Dr. Dale Nesbary, Ed Garner, George Walker, J. Arthur Sanders, James Waters, Jon Covington, Justin Jennings, Kelly Richards, Marvin Nash, Rodney Walker, TJ Chappel, William Muhammad, and Jonathan Wilson.
Michael and Kay Olthoff/Thelma and Paul Wiener Gallery
Michigan artist Nat Rosales assembles fantastical vehicles and creatures from scrap metal, found and manipulated objects, and mechanical parts. Integral to his art are cast bronze and brass animal sculptures, door and drawer knobs, decorative lamp bodies, gears and drives, various housings, and a host of decorative metal, plastic, and ceramic bric-a-brac. The resulting combinations are a blend of Alice in Wonderland and H.G. Wells, an amalgam of whimsy, fantasy, and mechanics.
FantasMenagerie features over a dozen of Rosales’ recent works, a menagerie of vehicles, contraptions, and mechanical-animal hybrids. Formed from found objects and scrap, and inspired by Rosales’ life and culture, these fantastical creations invite the viewer along on a journey of magic and exploration. To see learn more about the artist and see examples of his work, enjoy the newly published E-Book, available here.
Rosales has been drawn to sculpture since childhood, an ideal expression for his fascination with taking things apart and exploring how the resulting pieces might be reconfigured and assembled. His current body of work began in 2004, with one of his earliest creations, Hog I, appearing in the Muskegon Museum of Art’s annual juried Regional Exhibition in 2005. His Mexican and Catholic heritage combine with a life-long interest in Cubist and Modern sculpture to form the foundation of his artistic expression.