Personal to Political: Celebrating the African American Artists of Paulson Fontaine Press

September 15 – November 27, 2022

Personal to Political: Celebrating the African American Artists of Paulson Fontaine Press presents the work of fourteen members of the Berkeley based fine art print studio, Paulson Fontaine Press. The collective includes internationally celebrated African American artists, such as Martin Puryear, Kerry James Marshall, and the Gee’s Bend Quilters; voices of the new avant-garde who have helped shape the contemporary art conversation in the Bay Area and beyond. Characterized by a diverse range of styles and media, the exhibition explores personal and political perspectives through abstract and traditional imagery, resulting in a dynamic display of prints, paintings, quilts, and sculptures. 

About Paulson Fontaine Press

Established in Emeryville in 1996, Paulson Fontaine Press, formerly Paulson Bott Press, is known for amplifying important, often underrepresented, voices in the visual arts. In 1997, after hearing the painter Kerry James Marshall give a talk about the dearth of Black voices and representation in major museums and art institutions, co-founder Pam Paulson realized there was a vacuum to be filled. Through their fine art publishing program, Paulson Fontaine Press reaches new audiences for African American artists across the country. California artists include Bay Area artist Lava Thomas, whose multidisciplinary practice considers themes of social justice, female subjectivity, current events, and the shifting tides of history. As well as Edgar Areneaux, a Los Angeles native who has been a pivotal leader of the Watts House Project, an effort to revitalize the Watts community through art. To learn more please visit: http://paulsonfontainepress.com/.

Featured Artists

Gee’s Bend Quilters: Gee’s Bend is a small, rural African American community that is surrounded on three sides by the Alabama River. The women of Gee’s Bend create quilted masterpieces that are both functional and unique and combine artisanship and ingenuity. Their storied crafting tradition dates back to the 1920s, and their works—created out of necessity for their homes—are an inspiring and vital part of American art history. In addition to prints, this exhibition includes quilts by the Gee’s Bend Quilters.

David Huffman: David Huffman depicts the African American experience and “the stereotypical signifiers of this history.” He uses humor to bridge fantasy and reality with his depictions of figures in astronaut garb (known as Traumanauts), conducting their daily activities. On the surface, some of the Traumanaut images are playful, but a deeper look reveals Huffman’s perspective on politics, culture and our relationship to the earth and urban environments.

Kerry James Marshall: Born in Alabama in 1955 and raised in Watts, Los Angeles, Kerry James Marshall’s work delves into the history of African American identity. He explores political themes and focuses on Western art and its absence of Black subjects. His paintings bring people to the forefront who have previously been invisible—the African American woman, artist, master, and actor.

Martin Puryear: Sculptor, Martin Puryear’s love of natural materials and traditional crafting methods employ wood, mesh, stone and metal to create forms that resist identification. As one of the most lauded contemporary artists, Puryear’s work has been exhibited across the country at the MOMA New York and National Gallery of Art. His list of awards includes a Guggenheim Fellowship, a MacArthur Foundation award, the Gold Medal in Sculpture by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the National Medal of Arts.

Lava Thomas: Lava Thomas’s work is influenced by themes of social justice and feminist discourse, past and present. Her hair portraits and mirrored tambourines are quintessentially personal. They are also strongly political, depicting the nature of who we are and how we express ourselves to the larger world.


Personal to Political: Celebrating the African American Artists of Paulson Fontaine Press was organized by the Bedford Gallery at the Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, CA.


Image: Radcliffe Bailey, By the River, 2000, Color aquatint with photogravure etching and chine collé, 40.5 x 49 inches. Courtesy of Paulson Fontaine Press, Berkeley, CA.