LONDON – De Buck Gallery is pleased to announce its first participation in the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair | London. The booth will feature both poignant new painting and quilt works by Stephen Towns as well as a rare glimpse into Towns’ earlier practice through a retrospective selection of past paintings. The works in this selection bridge America’s past and present, breathing an exquisite new life into the country’s history through reimagined portraits and quilted narrative.
The work in De Buck Gallery’s 1-54 booth includes three earlier bodies of work from Towns. ‘The Gift of Lineage’ examines the power of uncovering the past through portraits that combine fabric collected in both the US and Ghana. ‘Co | patriot’ examines the relationship Black Americans have with their country and history, both known and lost, through references to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, Solomon Northrup’s “Twelve Years a Slave”, and Harriet Ann Jacob’s “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.” Towns’ works from ‘The Bridge: Stories from Works Progress Administration’ are reimagined portraits drawn from photographs taken of formerly enslaved people whose important stories bridge America’s past and present.
The booth will also debut two new works: a piece from Towns’ new body of paintings that feature emotional portraits of Black coal miners, reimagined from historical photographs taken from the West Virginia History Archives and a quilt from his new series, ‘A Songbook Remembered,’ which coincides with his solo exhibition at De Buck Gallery in New York. The work in this series is inspired by songs of joy, hope, resilience, and protest.
Stephen Towns is a painter and fiber artist working primarily in oil, acrylic and quilting. His work explores the African Diaspora and examines how American history influences contemporary society. Towns draws much of his visual inspiration from Medieval altarpieces, impressionist paintings, and wax cloth prints. The work he creates is deeply rooted in the constructs of race and its effects on society. It is developed in direct response to issues that have affected African-American culture–issues such as loss of ancestral roots, slavery, class, education, skin tone and religion. The subjects in Towns’s works are not only glimpses of the sitters; they are also a reflection of himself and mirror his struggle to attain a sense of self-knowledge, self-worth and spirituality. His practice provides an avenue for him to process all that he has learned about the violence of American history and imparted a framework on how to navigate and articulate the current anger and frustration that exists throughout the world today. Towns’ ongoing quilt series celebrates the aesthetic traditions of African American women while exploring America’s history of slavery and labor. The quilts speak to how fabric preserves memory, both in Towns’ often deeply personal
connection to his materials as well as through the narratives he depicts of historical African Americans, including repeated references to Harriet Tubman.
Stephen Towns was born in 1980 in Lincolnville, South Carolina, and received a Bachelor of Fine Art in painting from the University of South Carolina. His work has been exhibited nationally, including solo exhibitions at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Galerie Myrtis, York College, Goucher College, as well as group exhibitions at Jack Shainman Gallery: The School, August Wilson Cultural Center, Arlington Art Center, The David C. Driskell Center, Montpelier Arts Center, Star- Spangled Banner Flag House and Museum. His work has been featured in publications such as the New York Times, Artforum, the Washington Post, Hyperallergic, Cultured Magazine, AfroPunk, Hype Beast and the American Craft Council Magazine. Towns was honored as the inaugural recipient of the 2016 Municipal Art Society of Baltimore Travel Prize and received a Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance Rubys Artist Grant in 2015. In 2018, Towns was a semi-finalist for the Sondheim Artscape Prize and awarded a MD State Arts Council’s Individual Artist Award. Towns’s work is in the private collections of The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), Art + Practice, artist Mark Bradford’s nonprofit based in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, The Petrucci
Family Foundation, The Baltimore Museum of Art, the City of Charleston, South Carolina, The Nelson Atkins Museum, St. Louis, Missouri, and is held in private collections nationally and abroad. In 2022, Towns will exhibit Declaration and Resistance, a solo exhibition of paintings and quilts at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Pennsylvania. Towns currently lives and works in Baltimore, MD.