Creative Alliance hosts artists Lonnie Holly and Paul Rucker

By ANNE HOLLMULLER | March 15, 2018


Hreinn Gud Laugsson/CC by 4.0

Musician and artist Lonnie Holley performed at the Creative Alliance with Paul Rucker.

On Saturday night, the Creative Alliance hosted a musical performance by Lonnie Holley and Paul Rucker in the theater of their artistic space in Highlandtown.

Several dozen Baltimoreans gathered together to listen to these artist-performers as they took the stage to play original music and speak with the audience. 

Both Holley and Rucker utilized their music and monologues to discuss weighty and essential themes, including women and family, black life in Baltimore and beyond, and the state of political life in America.

This concert offered the valuable opportunity to view two self-taught artists and musicians as they responded artistically to current political and cultural moments. 

First, artist and musician Paul Rucker took the stage and played several original songs on the cello. Chatting with the audience between each song, he discussed his mother, a talented church musician with wide-ranging musical knowledge. 

Rucker played some songs which had religious origins, others which riffed on classical music and still others which were entirely his own. Rucker also spoke about growing up in South Carolina and of knowing Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman when Boseman was a teenager and aspiring actor. 

Speaking about race, prejudice and politics in America, Rucker even jokingly announced his candidacy for the position of mayor of Baltimore. 

Rucker is a resident artist at Creative Alliance who works as a visual artist, composer and musician, often integrating live performance, sound, original compositions and art. He was a 2015 recipient of the Baker Artist Award and was most recently a recipient of a 2017 John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. 

As an artist exploring the history of racism and slavery in America, Rucker explores the material culture of shackles, hoods and other physical remnants of racial prejudice. 

He is perhaps best known for his satiric, fancifully patterned Ku Klux Klan robes, a prominent feature in his solo show, REWIND, which appeared at the Baltimore Museum of Art in 2015. 

Following an intermission, musician and artist Lonnie Holley came onstage and began performing with a saxophone player and a drummer. 

Holley is known for his electronic keyboard, an accompaniment to his rasping voice and original lyrics.

Every time that he appears onstage, Holley performs different original and completely spontaneous songs. 

With every performance, Holley’s music and lyrics are entirely improvised, changing according to his mood and his artistic inclinations. 

Rucker joined Holley after a few songs and added his electronically influenced cello to the mix of instruments at play in the performance. Holley — a latecomer to the music world — recorded his first album in 2012 at the age of 62. He has performed and collaborated with musicians including Dirty Projectors, Animal Collective, Bill Callahan and Bon Iver. 

During the show, Holley performed songs which reflected on his childhood growing up in Birmingham, Ala. — songs which discussed suffering, pain and prejudice, and songs which discussed the futility of national borders and border security. 

Holley’s art focuses on similar struggles; he is known for narrative sculptures created from found objects, which appear in galleries and museums across the country. 

Now working in Atlanta, Ga., the artist pursues his interest in experimental music and continues to work in visual art. 

Holley’s work is on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. as a part of their current special exhibition, Outliers and American Vanguard Art

This exhibition focuses on the work of self-taught artists. Though they may operate on the periphery of the art world, they have been able to affect a great influence upon the practice of modern art, both in the United States and internationally.

The theater offered a comfortable atmosphere for those attending the concert, with a high ceiling strung with a variety of luminescent bulbs. 

Attendees could buy drinks at a bar on one side of the theater and free popcorn was given away to the audience at the end of the show.

The Creative Alliance works to connect artists and audiences and encourages the live experience of art in the Baltimore community. 

The Alliance promotes Baltimore as a place of cultural production, supports local artists and advocates cultural expression within the local context. 

Upcoming events at the Creative Alliance this spring include concerts, film screenings, classes and workshops. 

An exhibition of unmanipulated landscapes captured through Adam Davies’ lens entitled Reroutings is currently on display at the Creative Alliance. It opened on March 10 and will be available to view through April 8.

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