The vital protest art of Jeff Donaldson: ‘He stood up for what he believed in’

He was 6ft 6in, loved jazz music and championed African American rights. Gone but not forgotten, the artist Jeff Donaldson is being honored with his first New York solo exhibition at the Kravets Wehby Gallery which opened on 23 February, over a decade after his death.The exhibition, which features 13 paintings, traces 35 years of the artist’s career, from the 1960s to his paintings in the late 1990s. His art was used to illustrate his fight for equal rights. “Ideologically, the work is fighting for the same crazy things there was to fight about 50 years ago,” said the curator, Marc Wehby. “These works are a relevant part of American history, black history, art history and they’re also beautiful.”

The psychedelic paintings are meticulous, detailed and create a plethora of patterns to create large haloes over women, majestic portraits of men and ocean waves in metallic paint, collage and paper foil. “They’re obsessively detailed, you’d never know a guy made these works,” said Wehby. “There’s a sensitivity to them that most men don’t have.”

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