Since the beloved Columbus artist Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson died in 2015, there have been many opportunities to see her vibrant historical and spiritual works.
Galleries and especially the Columbus Museum of Art, to whom Robinson bequeathed almost all of her estate, have presented her drawings, sculptures and multimedia works, notably in the comprehensive 2021 exhibit “Raggin On.” Is there anything left to see?
With Robinson, there’s always more to see.
Hammond Harkins Galleries, which represented the artist during her lifetime and owns a sizeable body of her work, is showing 25 pieces in the exhibit “Aminah Robinson: Mapping Histories.”
The exhibit, curated by Deidre Hamlar, director of the Aminah Robinson Legacy Project at the art museum, pairs significant works with the artist’s writings about them. The pieces span Robinson’s personal and ancestral history up to her interpretation of more current events.
The “mapping” of the exhibit title, Hamlar said, is a generic term that encompasses Robinson’s attempt to relate to space and time and people in those spaces and times.
One literal map is included: “Chronicles From the Village: Songs for the New Millennium,” a map of streets of Poindexter Village from 1958 to 2012, about the time the housing development was demolished.
Just inside the door of the gallery is a woodcut that shows Robinson’s philosophy about history. “Symphonic Poem Page 5 (Purple Bird)” presents a large purple bird whose head has turned in order to see and retrieve a dropped egg. The image demonstrates the Ghanaian principal of “sankofa,” that is, going back to fetch history in order to go forward.
All the works reflect Robinson’s interest and concern in capturing stories and people from the past. “Aminah’s Blackberry Patch” is a collection of drawings and leather satchels, or book jackets created as a tribute to her son on his 15th birthday. Sydney E. Robinson died in his late 20s in 1994.
African stories from her Great Aunt Themba are presented in the colorful acrylic painting “Open Air Apothecary Market.”
“Chronicles from the Village: Community Life at Long and Champion” (2012) is a lovely hand-colored etching paired with writings about the neighborhood.
Writings describing Robinson’s travels in Israel, “Sacred Pages,” are displayed with two large portraits of women. One has a headscarf made from plaid fabric and the other, a hijab made of men’s ties. As her fans know, Robinson made use of a wealth of found materials — buttons, threads, clothing scraps and more — in her multimedia works.
Included in this exhibit are works from Robinson’s Presidential series (including the enormous wall and floor piece “Presidential RagGonNon”) in which she documented and celebrated the 2008 election of President Barack Obama. Particularly intriguing is her accompanying writings for the project, a letter that describes her ancestral history, the history of American slavery and Obama’s election.
“I look at this exhibit as a small walk through Aminah’s history and as well as a walk through Black history,” Hamlar said.
Acknowledging that Robinson and her work are better-known locally than throughout the country, Hamlar said that part of her work at the Columbus Museum of Art is to expose wider audiences to Robinson’s work and to generate a greater appreciation for it.
“Aminah’s story may seem local, but it is universal,” Hamlar said. “We think this is the right time for her art to be exposed and for her stories to be told in a greater way.”
At a glance
“Aminah Robinson: Mapping Histories” continues through April 30 at Hammond Harkins Galleries, 641 N. High St. Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Call 614-238-3000 or visit www.hammondharkins.com.