For his first solo exhibition at Conduit Gallery, Dallas based artist Spencer Evans will present a body of paintings and drawings directly drawn from the experience of travel to Lagos, Nigeria in 2017. The exhibition’s title, I Am Because We Are, is derived from a well-known philosophical African Ubuntu proverb that embodies the universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. Evan’s original approach to the research was to explore the differences between Black American and Nigerian/African identity and a perception-rooted rift between Africans and Black Americans. Thinking about his ancestral lineage which Evans has traced to Nigeria and Cameroon, the artist worked with the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary and Bowen University to engage interviews. The discussions focused on identity and social constructs looking for differences between them and the millions of African descendants living in the United States. Instead, what Evans encountered was a shift of his own point of view as he discovered many similarities between the Nigerians he met and the Black Americans he knew at home.
This new awareness led Evans to create a body of work that is a visual call and response; pairing individual and group portraits of the Nigerians he met with self-portraits, as well as portraits of friends and family. Each work in the exhibition has a mate; a separate but connected work of art that illustrates the direct connections between people through dress, pattern and atmosphere. With delicate brush application, Evans models his subjects with a precision that feels cared for and personal. Often, especially in the case of his Nigerian portraits, the pattern of dress specific to his subjects travels onto the skin of the bodies and faces.
Born in Houston, Texas, Spencer Evans earned a BFA from the University of Missouri, Columbia in 2009 and an MFA from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2017. Since 2015, Evans has presented several notable lectures, presentations and workshops based on the research conducted for his painting practice: the Meadows School of Art, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX (2018); The Relationships between Social Justice Issues in the Black American Community and Sudan (Research and Mural Project), United States Embassy, Khartoum, Sudan (2018); Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, Oyo, Nigeria (2017); Imago Gallery and Cultural Center, Columbia, MO (2016); and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, TX (2015).
In February 2018, in collaboration with the US Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan and in conjunction with African American History Month, the non-profit organization Make Art with Purpose awarded Evans travel to Sudan to create a mural at Sudan University College of Fine and Applied Arts. The mural was produced in April of 2018. While in Sudan, Evans worked with youth from refugee camps and a local artist to teach the art and mechanics of mural making, from inception to design to application on the wall.
Recent awards include; the McDowell International Research Grant (2017); Dorothy Aderholt Memorial Scholarship Award Winner (Arlington Arts League) (2017); the Nasher Sculpture Center Microgrant Finalist (2017); the Ideas in Art Scholarship (2015); and the Contemporary Art Dealers of Dallas Fund Winner (2015).