Conversations on Culture #6: Dewey Crumpler in conversation with Karen Jenkins-Johnson

15 May 2020 



Welcome to a Conversation on Culture with Dewey Crumpler, a Bay Area artist and professor of painting at San Francisco Art Institute. He was the professor of acclaimed artists including Kehinde Wiley and Deborah Roberts (who makes a guest appearance!). Dewey’s art practice is rooted in the turbulent San Francisco late 1960s civil rights movement era, where he got his start as a muralist, studying under master teachers Pablo Esteban O’Higgins and David Alfaro Siqueiros. For Dewey and his mentors, murals are an urban tradition that blends public art, a peoples history, vivid color, and politics. Among his many early achievements, Dewey was commissioned in 1967 by Smokey Robinson to do a mural at the Motown Record Company in Detroit. He also was commissioned for mural work by SF Arts Comission (1977), SF’s Mayor’s Office (1984), SF Historical Society, and many others. Dewey has exhibited nationally and internationally. He was in Soul of a Nation, which travelled from Tate Modern to the De Young, and has exhibited at SFMOMA, MOAD SF, Crocker Art, CAAM LA , and others. A true Bay Area native, Dewey received an MFA from Mills (1989), an MA from SFSU (1974), a BA from SFAI (1972) and attended Balboa High School. He has taught at Stanford, UC Berkeley, SFSU, and SFAI. After working as a muralist, Dewey began to address slavery in America. Recently, Crumpler has turned to examining contemporary capitalism and the shipping industry and its connections to the Transatlantic slave trade. He renders nautical vessels, shipping pallets, and containers that flit between abstraction and representation. Crumpler employs the container ship as a visual symbol to probe the long history of the world’s oceans to facilitate change. His forthcoming major exhibition at Richmond Art Center, “Dewey Crumpler: Crossings,” will include over 120 works spanning the last 15 years.