Once in a while, an art collection sparks the spirit of the past while evoking promise for the future. Cityscapes Yesteryear: Past and Present at the King Arts Complex is one of those exhibits. The 59-piece show opened on Thursday in commemoration of the Columbus Bicentennial. It celebrates our urban history through the works of Harvey Gilliam, Roman Johnson, Kojo Kamau, and Leon Page.
Gilliam is a 90-year-old Near East Side native known for his watercolor explorations of historic neighborhoods and city landscapes. He studied at the Columbus College of Art & Design and drew deep inspiration from renowned Ohio painter Emerson Burkhart. He always felt that art was his chosen profession and remembers the site, season, and year of all his paintings. Johnson (1917-2005) was also from the Near East Side. Widely respected amongst his peers, he befriended and painted alongside Burkhart for years. He studied in New York and Paris and had work displayed at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Page (1925-2003) studied at CCAD and considered himself a contemporary impressionist. He used his paintings and watercolors to document his personal views of the African American life experience. He actively participated in the Ohio Watercolor Society and crafted murals in prominent community spaces throughout Ohio, Michigan, and Canada. Kamau is an award-winning photographer and co-founder of Art for Community Expression (ACE). A Near East Side native who is now in his early 70’s, he worked as a photojournalist for the United States Air Force and as a medical photographer for The Ohio State University. He has won numerous awards for both his photography and cultural activism. His leadership has been an instrumental force in launching programs and galleries to propel African American artists.