An Interview with Courtland Blade

Black Spaces and Places, the current show in the Harrison Gallery, will be hanging through February 22nd and is the latest work by Harrison Center studio artist Courtland Blade.

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Blade is primarily an oil painter, and much of his recent work has been united by a common thread of emphasis on places of transition and everyday life, and Spaces both continues along that same vein of exploring “non-places” while also offering a more focused and specific study of areas with greater cultural and personal significance, a “place,” if you will. Stylistically, Spaces holds true to the signature oil-painting work that Blade has become known for, yet it finds its own identity through a departure from the norm into new subject matters and ideas unique to this particular body of work. The majority of pieces in Spaces have a distinct relationship with Indianapolis, and will afford many of those accustomed to the city a snapshot into the history and culture of African-American people in Indy through portrayals of familiar places and scenes, including the White River, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park, the Landmark for Peace Memorial, and even a construction site on 10th street.

Blade says, "This show is an exploration of the idea of 'black spaces' as opposed to the idea of what some call 'white spaces.’ Here I am simultaneously exploring some of the culture and history of black people in the city of Indianapolis through place and space - whether it be Madame Walker's legacy through the theatre, or King Park commemorating the night that Kennedy spoke to the people of Indianapolis after Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination.”

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Courtland sees art as a medium through which different perspectives and viewpoints can interact with one another, and Black Spaces and Places accomplishes that end, providing an entry point for different cultures to grow and understand each other better through the shared experience of the familiar. Many of the works within Spaces evoke feelings of sentimentality, drawing emotion from depictions of places and non-places that seem as though they were known and comfortable to someone specific. Whether it be somewhere that stands the test of time and holds a place of deep importance within society, such as the Madame Walker Theatre, or somewhere so routine and normal, like a laundromat or a barbershop, that it offers the comfort of the ordinary, Spaces truly provides a look into different cultures and gives a framework for pursuing further understanding of the perspectives of others.

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Black Spaces and Places is a thought-provoking and inspiring exploration of different cultures and perspectives, and we hope you will come out and enjoy this meaningful and moving show.

Kyle Baird