“The most soul-stirring, heart-opening memories that I have are black … and rhythmic,” says abstract painter June Edmonds. “They feel like love at its beginning and transform into full color."
The LA-based artist’s current solo exhibition at Riverside Art Museum, Rhythmic Inquisitions: June Edmonds, follows a similar color story. Featuring moody charcoal drawings alongside vibrant abstractions from her Energy Wheel Paintings, the exhibition illustrates June’s shift from black and white draftsmanship to full-blown color. Combining repetition, movement, and balance, June’s work expands the rich history of American abstraction through the lenses of women and people of color.
“[June’s] hypnotic paintings and drawings are part of a long tradition of Black abstraction that needs to be acknowledged,” says the exhibition’s guest curator, Lisa Henry. Featuring 19 paintings and drawings, the work in Rhythmic Inquisitions is inspired by the artist’s meditation practice, and explores themes of race, nationality, gender, and identity. “While Edmonds’ works fit squarely within the Western tradition of abstract art, traditional art history has been slow to acknowledge the work of African American abstract painters,” notes Lisa.
From deep, dramatic black to pulsating rainbow hues, Rhythmic Inquisitions filters June’s spiritual journey and cultural history through a prism of perfectly balanced tints, tones, hues, and shades. Rhythmic Inquisitions is on view at Riverside Art Museum in its downstairs Members Gallery through November 27, 2022.
In Today’s Q+Art Interview…
June Edmonds discusses her personal meditation style, how working in a sketchbook helps plan her latest paintings, and a few of the pioneering Black women who inspire her work.
Which books, art-related or otherwise, belong on every artist’s shelf?
June Edmonds: I can’t say what belongs on another artist’s shelf. Some books I have read more recently: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi; The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray; Finding Me by Viola Davis; Ninth Street Women by Mary Gabriel.
What’s your meditation practice like? What’s your favorite type of meditation?
JE: It is very informal. Right now I do shorter sessions multiple times a day.
Do you plan your compositions before you begin or do you have more of a free-form creative process?
JE: Lately, I have been doing deep dives in my planning. I am very active in my sketchbook and do multiple drawings before a painting. I also do a preliminary color plan with color pencils in my sketchbook. The drawings in the exhibition were spontaneous with no planning. The large recent paintings from 2021 had some planning, but not like what I am doing now.
Which cultural concepts, themes, or philosophies inform your work?
JE: In the series of large abstracts I created last year and represented in the RAM exhibition, my work is informed by Black women who have dared to create a place for themselves here in Southern California and greater California, including Biddy Mason, María Rita Valdez the Afro-Mexican owner of Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas, what comprises much of contemporary Beverly Hills, and Henrietta Van Horn-Debois of La Jolla. I am focusing on Black women's stories, mapping symbolism that resemble vulvas intended to celebrate the particular daring and vision of these pioneers who laid the groundwork that is the powerful foundation where we stand and live our lives today, known, unknown, acknowledged or not.
The arcs embody movements and actual roads that exist to this day in the locations that are being contemplated in each work. “Only a Gardener” was a statement used in a La Jolla city council meeting when discussing whether the original house of pioneer Ed Coleman should be designated as a historical site. The title was what was said as an argument against the idea. Edward Coleman was a leader in his community and also did work in real estate and other work. (This designation did go through, but has since been rescinded, unfortunately.) In the continuing saga of our movements for better lives, I see a cycle of trauma, migration, recovery, hope, love, theft, loss, and more.
How do you view the relationship between memory and color? Do all of your memories have a coinciding color?
JE: I do not coincide a color to certain types of memory. I do use darks and browns to assume the role of our skin tones.
Rhythmic Inquisitions includes work from four phases of your career, ranging from black charcoal drawings to prismatic energy wheel paintings. What inspired the aesthetic shifts in your work?
JE: I allow myself to make shifts in the studio according to where my interests move or ideas transition.
What brings you joy right now?
JE: Family, friends, travel and art.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. All photos published with permission of the artist(s) and Luis De Jesus Los Angeles.
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