John Coleman is a self-taught artist nationally known for recreating the history of African-American life on canvas. Through his folk-art style, Coleman captures all the nuances and details of leisure time in and around early African-American homes by elegantly painting men playing games such as dominos, checkers, and cards. This only skims the surface of his body of work as those who have viewed his artwork are allowed to travel back in tie and see the beauty of history.
Over the last decade Coleman has paid homage to Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock while presenting a wide variety of his large and small paintings of African-American life. Coleman is arguably best known for his images of people working, such as “Pepper Pickers” and “Cotton Picker” just to name a few. The most surprising images are his series of woman’s portraits a la Picasso. Working with bright shades of blue and using a cubist style, Coleman flattens his figures to fill the picture frame almost geometrically, topped by faces with multiple perspectives. “Blue Lady Reading”, “Black Princess”, and “Lady Reclining” would make Picasso proud. In his tributes to Pollock, Coleman builds up layers and layers of paint, sometimes pilling it on with a palette knife for rich, thick textures of ropy lines and plenty of energy. He even manages to transform Pollock’s abstract expressionism into a tribute to San Antonio’s biggest party in “Si Fiesta”.
NBA basketball star Grant Hill became fascinated with black history in the Harlem Renaissance era, so he began to collect lithographs, sculptures, paintings, and drawings from impressive artists, including the work of john Coleman. Hill purchased Coleman’s famed, “Eight Ball” and “Coffee Break”.
Now part of the traveling exhibit “Something All Our Own: The Grant Hill Collection of African American Art” These paintings have been featured all over the United States including art exhibits at the Smithsonian Museum, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Morgan State University, Texas Southern University, and many others. It is documented that Coleman’s “Coffee Break” frequently draws a response from children. It portrays a father and a son sharing a moment at the kitchen table. One kid attending the exhibit says, “that looks like my grandfather.”. Coleman’s art along with others starts a lost dialogue of African-American history. It is truly a snapshot of history. The Grant Hill Collection now contains more than one-hundred pieces.
Highlighted in “Business Week Magazine” Coleman’s Church Service is also part of the collection. Coleman says that, “As a contemporary African-American artist, I feel that my images of African-American life in the narrative tradition will assist the viewer to clearly understand and appreciate African-American Art in the 21st century. Individuals can see through the eyes of the artist’s work expressions of joy and beauty of the working-class people as they go about their daily life. They encounter hard struggles, but there is a reward for a job well done in the end.”.