Hebru Brantley Celebrates With Hennessy Black



This past Friday [April 12, 2013] Chicago’s own Hebru Brantley showcased a portion of his art collection at the Lucana Artists Lofts, Chicago. The private collector’s preview, “Downtown 88 Presented by Hennessy Black,” also doubled as a birthday celebration for the man of the hour. Legendary A Tribe Called Quest frontman Q-Tip performed on the ones and twos for an evening of art, culture and music. caught up with the Bronzeville native at his art studio to hear his thoughts about his new pieces and his rise recent rise in the art world.

You’ve had quite an eventful career so far. What have been the top three highlights of your past year? 

Meeting Jay-Z, it was awesome! I was so nervous. It wasn’t like I was dropping a piece off to somebody, I was actually at his crib. Being a pre-teen and teenager, and growing up listening to Jay, it was a great experience. I’m not calling him an idol of mine, but I definitely respect the dude. Number two was being able to experience Art Basel the way that I did this year. And number three would probably have to be that my sister’s surgery was successful. Those are pretty damn good highlights, and now I got Q-Tip DJing at my birthday.

2013 is looking pretty good for you. Are there any new collaborations, exhibits or murals that we can look forward to from you?

There’s a lot to come. I’m excited about working with other brilliant people and different genres of art. I am excited about learning from them and engaging a wider audience. That’s what excites me.

Tell us a little bit about the new pieces that you are showcasing today. 

I am building the collection right now. It’s likened to a recording artist making an album. I’m just pulling enough pieces together and working furiously. I don’t have a definitive preconceived theme going into another series. I just let the art work its way out. The works downstairs are the pieces I have worked on over the past two months. These are the pieces that I thought at this point in time had the most cohesion and were thematically similar.

A large portion of your work incorporates narratives that are deeply rooted in the African-American experience. How do those themes manifest themselves in your work?

Chicago is at a state of duress with crime, murders and shootings. That can’t help but play a part in my work. It’s always in the back of my mind. My heart gets heavy when I hear that a newborn baby gets killed. Most time I don’t set out to say, this is what I’m saying in my work, but as my ideas begin to formulate on the canvas, it just comes out that way.

And finally, what does the Ebony/JET name mean to you?

My mom was Mr. Johnson’s secretary, he had two. It was cool. When I was young, maybe five or six, I would go there. It was dope because during Christmas it was bananas! When I was a kid, I had a huge affinity for toys. Mr. Johnson sent me a whole Star Wars set one year. He opened up my first bank account for me as a kid. He was a good guy. My uncle Dennis H. Boston was the Senior Vice President & Midwest Advertising Director for Johnson Publishing Company, and my aunt ran the caferteria. I grew up in the Ebony/JET family, like for real!

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