A Homecoming for Artist James Allister Sprang
In an exciting effort to champion interdisciplinary collaboration and Miami’s native artists, the National YoungArts Foundation is presenting In Process: Homecoming. This program offers YoungArts alumni a one-week artist residency at the organization’s iconic campus, followed by a public presentation in the local community they feel most connected to.
Speaking from this place called home, it’s hard to imagine another city that offers both a tropical and an urban sensibility, or a town where diversity is so profoundly layered with ethnicity, culture, language and identity. Artists from Miami think in a distinctive palate, and those who move here quickly learn to adopt a new lens for understanding.
YoungArts’ special In Process: Homecoming edition is all-new this year, and launches Saturday, October 7 with “Partite” by James Allister Sprang (2008 Winner in Visual Arts) and Julie Zhu (2008 Winner in Visual Arts & U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts). Together, these artists combine sculpture, photography, installation and sound to create artistic tensions akin to those reflected in today’s America.
Here’s more from alumnus James, who also graduated from Design and Architecture Senior High (DASH) in 2008:
The Miami Design District has changed exponentially since you graduated from DASH in 2008. Why did you pick it as the site for your residency presentation with YoungArts?
Ten years ago I was a homeless 18-year-old preparing to graduate high school and trying to figure out how to get to New York and attend college. At that time, the Design District was where I found all of my support and solace. People had ongoing open tabs for me at restaurants, housed me, helped me raise money to move to New York City, and introduced me to the gift that is art-making. Though many of those people and communities are no longer in the neighborhood, I hope we all are able to come together for a night. I imagine many discoveries will be made.
This is an opportunity that came to you through YoungArts. What was it like to participate in the national organization’s program as a winner in visual arts when you were in high school?
YoungArts was a great experience! Looking back, it was a really nice segue into college, where you have to start absorbing as much as you can. At YoungArts, I was incredibly inspired to be surrounded by so many young people who had found their life-long passion so early.
The act of seeing, of witness, is integral to the work that you create. Though your work has an essential focus on race relations, the black body is not seen. How did you come to discover the process of abstraction through which you explore race?
Concrete is the material used to pave our public spaces. It is the stage for "urban life." Concrete is a word that describes an entire genre of poetry. There is an exactness and slippage with this industrial material that I find to be uncanny when thinking about the abstraction of black folk in this country. Blackness is not about the body, it is rather about perception. Given this, I do not feel these images need bodies within them to concrete their complexity.
The title of your work, “Partite,” is unique, meaning divided into parts; divided to or nearly to the base. What about the concept of division is being explored through this work?
My collaborator Julie and I are deconstructing, re-arranging and transforming material and notation. We are working with pieces. The work is about acknowledging that the parts are greater than the whole. Nothing is indivisible.
Partite takes place on October 7 from 7 to 9 p.m. at 4141 NE 2nd Avenue, Suite 105F in the Miami Design District. The event is free and open to the public by RSVP at homecomingjames.eventbrite.com. For more information about In Process: Homecoming, and YoungArts’ signature arts competition for ages 15 – 18 years (applications now open until October 13, 2017), visit the website at youngarts.org.
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