Arts of Barry R Irving
(C) Neo Afro
(C) Afroneo
Neo Afro Genre
(C) Awo

Community Folk Arts Central... Art  Moves!


    (C) Afro    Neo /oneo
Expressive    Line    Drawings

Self Portrait / Gesture Line Drawing 1969

... my back dated "Style / Genre description that was definitively completed during my 2005 - 2007 return to my Alma Mater Syracuse University to finish my BFA which was in Studio Arts & Education. I originally called it (C) Definitive Line Equation.
D.L.E. came about as a result of my want of a more West African Aesthetic drawing style like the Esoteric images of the Ancient Arts. The problem I was having in developing this form is that I had no mentor model yet who was of my time and who retained the West African Aecthetic in his imagery. I later found that in Trinidadian Painter Leroy Clarke Chief - Ifa Oje Won Yomi Abiodun at the First Studio Museum in Harlem in 125th St and Fifth Ave, Harlem, NYC. The First African American Museum in the USA.

...I have always had a fascination for Ancient African Art, but being from an assimilated family of regular non political working class African American folk, we had American lifestyles. We didn't wear African garb but my father was a craftsman and he had a wooden statue that he repainted and refinished every other year. It was a modernistic long necked stylized face of an African Woman. The eyes were closed and she had a Crown like hair do, but what I most noted was the traditionally African aesthetic of "Coolness" in the face and the lips were pronounced. My Uncle Chink ( Reynold Brown ) was a fine impasto painter and one of his family famous works were of a man and Woman, long necked and a distinctive Lofty expression on the faces. The man was bald headed. that painting became my first African Image influence and these drawings reflect that style of my late Uncle. The closed eyes signature in my Fathers Sculpture of the African Woman and my Uncle Chink's similar closed eyes in his Man and Woman double canvas painting stuck with me.

I was an introspective young man. My Mother the late Sylvia ( Brown ) Irving was also an artist. My ( Strict Caribbean ) Grand Father would never allow any of his children to strive to be Artists because that profession was not previously a family signature. He saw Art as a hobby so my H.S. Educated Mother's ambition was to be a working mother and wife. She taught me to draw very early...probably at 8 years old. I would ask her to draw things for me and I would watch and copy it.
There was a Family story about this long roll of drawings that my mother did as a teenager. Everyone talked about it at family gatherings, my mother and father mentioned it often but no one knew what ever happened to it. My thirst to see this roll of drawings created a stream of visualizing from verbal descriptions. I really needed to see these drawings but never did, but my imagination opened in a way it never had before.

I started out, like most young artists exploring figurative and portrait realism in Art. As I studied books I was attracted to Salvatore Dali's surrealistic dream imagery. I didn't read about artists life when I thirst was for fantastic imagery. The way Dali bent reality is what fascinated me about his work. He also used attraction energy and the power of suggestion which I found interesting.  I was a quiet, polite young man but I had a developing sense of rage in my world. My Father, was from a Southern Family and my Mother was from a Caribbean Family. Both grew up poor on E. 99th Street in what is now Spanish Harlem. Their ambition was school - employment and family. Though both were multi creative, both couldn't dare to be professional Artists because in their simple nuclear culture the aim was in securing a "REAL JOB". I came of age during the Civil Rights Era. I was still not very vocal but my eyes and ears were open. I was finding myself and my voice was growing inside. Art... particularly Drawing became a vehicle to explore my more political beliefs and my feelings of rage. I always loved languge and would take much time exploring the dictionary and thesaurus. In doing that I developed an imaginative sense of expression due to my focus on the wide variations on one root word or term. That wide sense held through until I had a body of work to talk about. 

... from the beginning of my first portfolio, I found a voice to begin to see myself in the world. My free style drawing is what became the concept of (C) 1970 Definitive Line Equation. Drawing on my study of terms and language use, I saw drawing as a language...a scripted / symbolic language where the "LINE" Defines!

...what brought me to this definition was the fact that Blackness was at the forefront in African American Culture. i was not yet in an academic environment where Art and Imagery is seen more subjectively, so internally id faced the fact that in traditional drawing - the Black line on White surface is the norm. But I was seeking an African image. I felt comfortable in the free style drawing that I was developing, but I was subconsciously seeking an African / Ethnic look. I wasn't aware that my free style was in line with Abstract Expressionism...I was steeped in African American Folk Imagery in my head. My natural expression came out in the negative as in opposite because "Line Drawing" is showing paper..which is White. I was freely abstracting my thoughts and using Design as a strong part of my imagery. In my head I was creating African Images. So at one point in meditating on my heavy use of both open line and Cross hatched line technique I separated the two styles by realizing that I love to just draw and design freely. Most of what I was concentrating on was African people oriented, so people and life situations were the underlying influence that came out in my consciously free drawing style. (C) Definitive Line Equation became my quiet theme in this free style. I began to see line and script and as I drew, I saw myself telling a story as if I were writing a book.

(C) DEFINITIVE LINE EQUATION BECAME my Multi Disciplinary encompassing (C) NEO AFRO / Afroneo

During the course of my 50+ year career as an Independent Artist  / Educator, definition and presentation of work and the ideas behind them became my singular focus. I found that my definitions of self defied the know definitions and ways that African American Artists present themselves. For me developing a philosophy of drawing that is many times apolitical in intent but very political in the finished work was a special thing because if you create in honest character...expressing what you feel without the intent of taking a shot at produce work that is interesting YET Politically effective. I liken that development to the notion of shouting with a mean face VS speaking loudly because that volume is what is effective for the content presented. I am an African American man and my work is classical in content, technique and structure = Fine Art...YET it is extremely "Folk Art" centered because I speak for my family and my race as a Career Cultural and Academic Educator. It is important to note that because in the world of Fine Art which is centered in European Thought, Traditions and Genres, my voice is always controversial because of what I bend from that tradition.

I created some of the most Culturally / Ethnically in depth paintings in 2005 - 2007 when I returned to Syracuse University. I chose Abstract Expressionism and Neo Expressionism as my Genre to study. The Studio Arts Curriculum which is Multi Disciplinary was my original study course but it was no longer available. So I chose Painting and minored in Ceramics. Painting is concentrated in Historical Painting Styles, Art Theory and Art Criticism... Ironically, I had Professors who are old school who came up with Abstract Expressionism which was prevalent on the American Art Scene and Higher Education School Systems. They saw my work well, but were at odds as to what to call my style. In College, the study of Art is about the "Cannons' of Fine Art. Content is seen as titles, levels and variations of style, technique and personal signature...theory is who you mirror historically and what you are trying to accomplish technically. The Painting curriculum is heavily centered in drawing which is the foundation of painting. 

I came from Harlem NYC which was one of the centers of American Protest so my Art, though technically and compositionally advanced, was steeped in Social Commentary, so my imagery / conversation about what I was doing turned some heads. My drawing instructor stated that Modern Art is Art about Nothing. I'm sure they stay with that to keep young Artists focused on the craft rather than self expression which side steps Tradition in may ways. A professor who is a Yale Art School Grad disagreed with my African definitions and Neo Expressionist leanings. 

Neo Expressionism is headed by Jean Michael Basquiat who shook the Art World with his Revolutionary painting style. This Professor thought I should identify as an Abstract Expressionist...the Pre Neo Expressionist movement. I took great time to talk openly about where I came from and what my art represented. I was 55 years old at the time and just finished a 20 year run as an Artist / Educator / Performer and public / Art Festival presenter. My Career was 38 years long so I made it a point to explain myself and then there was no issue. If you want to innovate in school you have to leave no doubt about what you are doing. That required honesty and a great deal of book, life experience, mentoring and inner self research.