Monday, September 28, 2020

A Glorious Elijah Pierce Exhibit at the Barnes Foundation Brings Us Temptation, Salvation, Grace

By Thomas Hine
One page of “The Book of Wood,” seven massive relief carvings with 33 scenes depicting parts of Jesus’ life — including Christ knocking at the door and entering Jerusalem. The celebrated work is one massive wooden “book” rests on a lectern with “pages” that turn.
PHILADELPHIA---The new show at the Barnes Foundation is called “Elijah Pierce’s America,” but it could just as easily be “Elijah Pierce’s Cosmos.” In a biblical flood of carved imagery, this barber turned preacher turned wood-carving artist and storyteller shows us heaven, temptation, and grace. The devil fishes for sinners using money, dice, and a scantily clad woman. We see Father Time, shirtless and in shorts, running frantically, his scythe tucked under his arm. We see Richard Nixon being chased by inflation, which looks like a fat and nasty dog. There are elephants, a crocodile, and a couple of Popeyes, one of them Black. God the Father and his son spread grace upon the world, and enslavers use their whips.[More
Elijah Pierce works on a large-scale sculpture of an elephant in his barber shop studio, Columbus, Ohio, Circa 1970.