"Jazz Man"

  • Details

    Black Folk Art Artist
    From the Lila Cockrell Collection.

    ++John Coleman (Playground | Returning Home) is a native of Saluda, S.C. and arrived in San Antonio in 1963 as a soldier in the Army at Ft. Sam Houston. He was the first graduate in St. Philip’s College history to receive his Associate of Arts degree in Art. This was only the beginning in the groundbreaking of “firsts” for Coleman as an artist; he was one of the first African American Artists to locate studio work in the La Villita Historic District where his alma mater was founded in 1898. After meeting a fellow African American Artist, Robert Blake, and being inspired by Mr. Blake’s portraiture and a desire to tell African American history
    In the late 1980s, former San Antonio mayor Lila Cockrell attended a reception that sparked her interest in distinctive American art that stretches back through the ages. She was a guest of Harmon and Harriet Kelley, who have one of the largest African American art collections in the nation. While viewing the works, she was drawn to the bold lines of a painting that illustrated a baptism at the San Antonio River.

    “It seemed so much from the heart,” Cockrell said during a phone conversation. “It just somehow spoke to me.” The Kelleys and African American art expert Aaronetta Pierce encouraged Cockrell to research and collect paintings by local African American artists.

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    Her first acquisition was “Jazz Man.” She counts more than 35 paintings in her collection, including works by Claudette Hopkins, F.L. “Doc” Spellmon, Glen Franklin and John Banks.She sought out the artists to learn how their life experiences were rooted in their works. Their scenes of the blues, rural life and children at play are part of her diverse art collection, which also includes works by Hispanic artists.

  • Biography

    John Coleman

    Black Folk Art Artist

    John Coleman is a self-taught artist nationally known for recreating the history of African-American life on canvas. Through his folk-art style, Coleman captures all the nuances and details of leisure time in and around early African-American homes by elegantly painting men playing games such as dominos, checkers, and cards. This only skims the surface of his body of work as those who have viewed his artwork are allowed to travel back in tie and see the beauty of history. Over the last decade Coleman has paid homage to Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock while presenting a wide variety of his large and small paintings of African-American life. Coleman is arguably best known for his images of people working, such as “Pepper Pickers” and “Cotton Picker” just to name a few. The most surprising images are his series of woman’s portraits a la Picasso. Working with bright shades of blue and using a cubist style, Coleman flattens his figures to fill the picture frame almost geometrically, topped by faces with multiple perspectives. “Blue Lady Reading”, “Black Princess”, and “Lady Reclining” would make Picasso proud. In his tributes to Pollock, Coleman builds up layers and layers of paint, sometimes pilling it on with a palette knife for rich, thick textures of ropy lines and plenty of energy. He even manages to transform Pollock’s abstract expressionism into a tribute to San Antonio’s biggest party in “Si Fiesta". NBA basketball star Grant Hill became fascinated with black history in the Harlem Renaissance era, so he began to collect lithographs, sculptures, paintings, and drawings from impressive artists, including the work of john Coleman. Hill purchased Coleman’s famed, “Eight Ball” and “Coffee Break". Now part of the traveling exhibit “Something All Our Own: The Grant Hill Collection of African American Art” These paintings have been featured all over the United States including art exhibits at the Smithsonian Museum, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Morgan State University, Texas Southern University, and many others. It is documented that Coleman’s “Coffee Break” frequently draws a response from children. It portrays a father and a son sharing a moment at the kitchen table. One kid attending the exhibit says, “that looks like my grandfather.”. Coleman’s art along with others starts a lost dialogue of African-American history. It is truly a snapshot of history. The Grant Hill Collection now contains more than one-hundred pieces. Highlighted in “Business Week Magazine” Coleman’s Church Service is also part of the collection. Coleman says that, “As a contemporary African-American artist, I feel that my images of African-American life in the narrative tradition will assist the viewer to clearly understand and appreciate African-American Art in the 21st century. Individuals can see through the eyes of the artist’s work expressions of joy and beauty of the working-class people as they go about their daily life. They encounter hard struggles, but there is a reward for a job well done in the end.”.