Conjuring, from Lion, Tigers, Bears and a Draco by Horace Imhotep

Art Center Sarasota’s 2019-20 exhibition season kicks off with four shows running Oct. 17 through Nov. 29. One of them, Lion, Tigers, Bears and a Draco, is a solo exhibit featuring paintings by Atlanta-based artist Horace Imhotep, whose work focuses on some of the darker moments of American history, particularly as reflected in the African-American experience.

Imhotep (who has in-laws living in Sarasota and has visited the area several times) will arrive in town before the Oct. 17 opening, both to oversee the installation of his work and to be available for a private reception and Q&A session about his career. That career has taken several turns along the way.

Born in Michigan, Imhotep has moved around, living in New York, Fort Lauderdale and Miami for a time and studying art at Morehouse College. He was originally a biology major and art history minor, feeling that making a living as an artist, as he told us, “seemed farfetched.” So he got involved when his younger brother decided to work in the clothing design industry, launching their own label, Blood, Sweat & Tears, which Imhotep describes as “forward” in its approach, with a “city aesthetic.”

He began thinking more seriously about his art career again through a story related to him by his wife, a teacher. “She was asking her students who freed the slaves, and one student said, very confidently, ‘Martin Luther King,’” he says. “And that’s probably not different from a large portion of the students she was teaching,” in the lack of knowledge of American history. “It struck me that I might be able to create a collection that could appeal to a younger demographic but also to an older, wiser one.” So he began research and sketches for his show, A Letter from the South, which used vibrant colors and images and more than a touch of satire to address elements of black experience in the South.

Bandana, from Lion, Tigers, Bears and a Draco, by Horace  Imhotep

The new exhibition at Art Center Sarasota took some of its inspiration from rapper Kendrick Lamar’s album Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, which followed a young boy’s life amid the drugs and gang life of Lamar’s native Compton. But, Imhotep says, the series has “imagination and reality meet; I wanted to make that line blur. A couple of pieces have an edge to them; they’re more aggressive, But I wanted to include a magical side as well.” After the exhibition here, Imhotep plans to head to Miami’s Art Basel in December.

In addition to Imhotep’s work, the Art Center season opener will present hyper-realistic botanical paintings by Susan Martin with Natural Form, works in all media by Art Center instructors, and the all-media, all-subjects juried exhibit New Views during the same time period. For more information, visit artsarasota.org.

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