For Immediate Release—Friday, Jan. 11, 2008

Tony Hoppa
Assistant Vice President for Communications
(585) 245-5516

SUNY Geneseo Exhibit to Display
Keith Morris Washington Paintings Jan. 28-Feb. 22
Artist's First Major Exhibition in Western New York

GENESEO, N.Y.—Beyond the colors and shadows on canvas, artist Keith Morris Washington paints a complex picture of race and culture in America by memorializing sites where lynchings occurred. The Bertha V.B. Lederer Gallery at the State University of New York at Geneseo will present "Within Our Gates: Site and Memory in the American Landscape" from Jan. 28-Feb. 22 in Brodie Hall.

Washington will deliver remarks at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 7 in the Gallery, to be followed by an opening reception from 5-7 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public. Gallery hours for this exhibit are noon-4 p.m. Monday-Thursday and noon-6 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

"As a cultural resource for the region, SUNY Geneseo's new exhibition program will present important works from new artists, whose pieces are significant for their creativity as well as their engagement with social and cultural issues," said Cynthia Hawkins, director of galleries. "'Within Our Gates'" is an excellent example of this new approach and we're delighted to present Washington's extraordinary work to our community and western New York."

Following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, Washington thought more about "home-grown terrorism" and began to research the history of lynching and human sacrifice in the United States. He expanded his focus across time and place outside of America as well, from the Aztec and Mayan tribes to the Druid and Celtic clans of the British Isles. In the end, he concluded the act of lynching, with its expression of irrational vengeance, to be an indigenous American mechanism for exploitation and control of the social order.

Influenced by 19th century Hudson River, Barbizon and Luminist painting, Washington began a series of mural-like paintings that memorialize the unmarked sites where the savage attacks on humans took place, focusing on incidents in America from the Reconstruction era to the present. Each painting's label describes the victim and the incident to provide historical context for the viewer.

However, unlike earlier painters who depicted an idealized, noble American landscape, Washington does not ignore the social order. Instead of a pristine wilderness, Washington displays a land laced with the interventions of man: roads, split-level ranch homes, porches and viaducts as well as treacherous swamps and deep, piney woods. When he visited these actual locations, he found them still to be dangerous and intimidating.

According to Hawkins, Washington's choice of scale adds to the scope of the paintings and places viewers within the range of these tragic events. His wide format, horizontal shapes are familiar due to the panoramic options of digital photography, but within this plane, he partitions the canvas into discrete rectangular grids. The inner structures guide viewers to look deeply into the paintings. The technique causes a shift in perspective—a warping of the image—and changes in tone, light quality and color patterns seem to mark memory and the passage of time."

About the artist

Keith Morris Washington lives and studies in Boston, where he serves as a member of the faculty at Massachusetts College of Art. Other works in this series have been shown in the Museum of the National Center of African American Art in Boston, the Aidekman Arts Center, Tufts University and the E. M. Bannister Society at Rhode Island College. His works are in numerous collections.

For more information, contact Cynthia Hawkins at (585) 245-5813 or

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