While Leo Twiggs’ retrospective exhibition is on view at the South Carolina State Museum, if ART, International Fine Art Services, will present Twiggs’ first solo gallery show in Columbia, S.C. The if ART exhibition, Leo Twiggs: Toward Another Retrospective, will take place March 3 – 14, 2006, at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios on Lady Street in Columbia’s downtown Vista district. It will present new paintings by Twiggs from the past year. The artist’s reception is March 3, 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Opening hours are Saturday, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.; weekdays, noon – 7:00 p.m.; and by appointment. For an appointment, call Wim Roefs at if ART at (803) 238-2351.
“Leo Twiggs is one of the giants of South Carolina art in the past four decades,” said Wim Roefs, owner of if ART. “He’s one of the state’s most important artists, and one of the few state artists with a truly national reputation. He’s also been one of South Carolina’s most important art educators. As a professor and art department head at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, he taught the majority of African-American art teachers working in this state. And Twiggs has been a major presence on art-related boards, committees and commissions in South Carolina, on any level.”
In 1981, Twiggs was the first to receive as an individual South Carolina’s highest art award, the Elizabeth O’Neil Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts. In 1970, he was the first African American to get an Ed.D. in art education from the University of Georgia. Twiggs is generally considered one of the most innovative batik artists in the county and the pioneer in developing batik as a modern art medium. His retrospective, Myths and Metaphors: The Art of Leo Twiggs, was organized by the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens, Ga. After a two-year tour, the exhibition has it last stop at the State Museum.
Twiggs, who retired from S.C. State in 1998, was born in 1934 and raised in rural St. Stephen, S.C. His art is about subjects, issues and people from or close to his Southern upbringing and countryside home. But through familiar specifics, Twiggs addresses broader themes, be it black culture, including the blues, the relationship between generations, religion and spirituality, or the South’s lingering Confederate mindset.
Twiggs is “an American original,” art historian Frank Martin argued in his contribution to the Myths and Metaphors exhibition catalogue. He makes “formal and aesthetic contributions unlike those of any other American painter.” Twiggs, Martin wrote, has “an uncanny ability to reconcile a multiplicity of cultural traditions with integrity, while simultaneously offering insightful commentary regarding aesthetic, ethical, and social issues that are translated, with understated power, through his unique experience.”
Twiggs began to experiment with batik in the mid-1960s. Already in 1972, the catalogue for an exhibition at Southern Illinois University said that “his name and the medium of batik seem almost synonymous.” There and at several other 1970s exhibitions, Twiggs shared the stage with a virtual who’s who of African-American art, including Jacob Lawrence, Lois Mailou Jones, Romare Bearden, Selma Burke, Richmond Barthe, John Biggers, Charles Alston and Hale Woodruff. Woodruff had been his teacher at New York University in the early 1960s. During the 1970s, Twiggs was included in books on African-American art by J. Edgar Atkinson, Samella Lewis and Elton Fax. He had solo museum exhibitions at North Carolina’s Asheville Museum, the Schenectady Museum in the state of New York, and the Studio Museum in Harlem.
“In a single work,” wrote Martin, who teaches at S.C. State, “Twiggs may present Southern regional themes, allude to a realm of intuition, magic, and traditional African religious elements, offer autobiographical information, and evoke, without effort, an aesthetic linkage to the most advanced aspects of Abstract Expressionism.”