Willie Birch – Seen and Unseen: Coupling

Exhibition Dates: August 1 – September 19, 2015
Opening Reception: Saturday, August 1 from 6–9 pm, in conjunction with White Linen Night
Gallery Location: 432 Julia Street, New Orleans, LA 70130
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm
Contact Info: 504.522.1999; www.arthurrogergallery.com

The Arthur Roger Gallery is pleased to present Seen and Unseen: Coupling, an exhibition of paintings by Willie Birch. The exhibition will be on view at Arthur Roger Gallery, located at 432 Julia Street, from August 1 – September 19, 2015. The gallery will host an opening reception with the artist in attendance, Saturday, August 1 from 6-9 pm in conjunction with White Linen Night.

Police Mourn a Fallen Comrade, 2015, Charcoal and acrylic on paper, 34 x 53 inches

Police Mourn a Fallen Comrade, 2015,
Charcoal and acrylic on paper, 34 x 53 inches

Willie Birch has always been a storyteller, sharing with us his observations of everyday objects and imagery that have had a direct impact on him, and subtly extracting the patterns and symbology inherent within. Recently, the artist has begun to specifically examine the interconnections between the examined elements and how, when coupled together, the initial meanings expand and create yet another layer – a language both seen and unseen. Birch explores the uses of spacing, repetition, geometry, and proportion to communicate how our unique modes of expression as a people identify us as individuals and as a community. He explains, “It’s like jazz; an individual melody exists by itself, but within the orchestra its meaning expands.”

This exhibition of small- to large-scale charcoal and acrylic paintings on paper further reveals the symphony that is New Orleans and its people. The architecture, fashion, fare, celebrations, funerals, and other customs all express what it means to live in this part of the world, yet also divulge their individual environments and origins. In An Altar for Villere Street, a parked car is partially covered in a tarp and wrapped loosely in rope to create a net-like covering. A large rock sits atop the hood securing the rope, reminiscent of an offering in exchange for the security of something beloved. In For Ladies Who Become Queens, we observe a similar draped pattern in the cascading crystals making up the ornate chandelier from a revered New Orleans restaurant. Possessions, decoration, protection – Birch considers their manifestations and connections and presents them to us with a bold transparency, inviting us to see what easily may have gone unnoticed.

Willie Birch was born in New Orleans in 1942. He received a B.A. from Southern University in New Orleans in 1969 and a M.F.A. from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore in 1973. After residing in New York for many years and traveling to Africa, he returned to New Orleans in the mid ‘90s to reside in the 7th Ward. Birch was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1984 and again in 1989. In 1993, he was the recipient of a John Guggenheim Fellowship in sculpture. In 2002, Birch received the Mayor’s Arts Award in New Orleans and in 2014, he was named a USA James Baldwin Fellow. His work is found in museum collections as well as public and private collections across the country, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the New Orleans Museum of Art; and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia.