Master printmaker from Jamaica, “Robert (Bob) Blackburn, is featured at the Wilmer Jennings Gallery, a satellite space of Kenkeleba House locate on 219 E. 2nd Street. The exhibition, which started on February 14, is called “Passages” and will be on view through March. Corrine Jennings, director of Wilmer Jennings Gallery, says, “We show Black History all the time.” A couple dozen donor sponsors helped produce this important exhibition curated by Deborah Cullen under the auspices of The David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland, College Park, which mounted the full exhibition in October, 2014.
“I don’t think the Caribbean world knows that Blackburn is one of Jamaica’s (ancestry) most important artists,” says Jennings. Continuing, “Particularly for the opportunities he afforded others by creating a printmaking workshop, (first in 1947) in his apartment, opening it to others.”
It’s always Black History Month for Jennings and her collaborator husband artist Joe Overstreet whose Kenkeleba House, an East Village fixture for over 40 years is dedicated to the exhibition of artworks by African-American, Latino, Asian-American and Native American artists.
On Feb. 14 at 3:00 p.m. there will be a gallery tour and on, a panel discussion.
Blackburn, whose parents were from Jamaica, grew up in Harlem in the 1930s taking printmaking classes as a young teen at the Harlem Community Arts Center conducted by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). This was also the time of the Harlem Renaissance’s cultural fomenting when creativity and production flourished in Harlem. After DeWitt High School, he attended the Art Students League on a scholarship.
Jennings explained that the artist was devoted and known for his Chelsea-located Blackburn Printmaking Workshop, which moved to a larger W. 17th St. space in 1948.
“He often gave scholarships. He really wanted to expand and encourage young people and their relationship with paper.” It eventually became an artists’ cooperative and then a non-profit. After his death, the workshop was incorporated into the programs of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts offering cooperative printmaking workspace, access to skilled staff and studio space.
She added, “He helped so