Detroit Artist Tylonn J. Sawyer Shows Work in New N’Namdi Center Exhibit

The exhibition explore distortions in America’s social fabric
“White on White” by Tylonn J. Sawyer is part of the White History Month Volume I and II: The Year of the Flood Exhibit at N’Namdi Gallery. // Photograph courtesy of N’Namdi Center For Contemporary Art 

Figurative artist Tylonn J. Sawyer is showing his work in a new exhibition called White History Month Volume I and II: The Year of the Flood Exhibit. The show, held at Detroit’s N’Namdi Center For Contemporary Art, opens today.

A Detroit native who lives and works in the city, Sawyer’s drawings and paintings often focus on identity, politics, race, history, and pop culture. White History Month Volume I and II, he says, “takes on the visual language often associated with power and oppression in Western art.” The pieces in the collection explore distortions in America’s social fabric and feature themes such as Black motherhood; hypocrisy in politics, religion, and the social order; the two-party political system; and the impact of Black thought leaders with opposing views.

Tylonn J. Sawyer
Tylonn J. Sawyer // // Photograph courtesy of N’Namdi Center For Contemporary Art 

In a press release, Sawyer discusses the inspiration for the exhibition. “Over the last several years the traditional American image of righteous patriotism, main street, white picket fences, apple pie, and Fourth of July fireworks have been replaced by overt xenophobia heralded by those highest in office,” he says. “Televised lynchings of Black men at the hands (or knee) of police officers, and social unrest in the midst of the increasing wealth gap are just a couple of the issues that have underpinned America’s crumbling reputation as the land of milk and honey.

“Like other prominent artists of this generation, rather than waiting for racist inspired monuments to come down, I create my own memorials with new narratives, upending racist ideology in the process.”

Sawyer has shown his work at solo and group exhibitions around the world. Locally, his art has been displayed in the Detroit Institute of Art, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, where he produced Michigan’s first teen arts council in 2014. He also teaches at Oakland Community College and College for Creative Studies.

White History Month Volume I and II will be at N’Namdi Center For Contemporary Art, located at 52 E. Forest Ave., through June 19. The show is open to the public at no cost, but donations to the gallery are welcome. Those interested in attending the opening of the exhibit can RSVP online.

For more information, visit nnamdicontemporary.com.

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Emma Klug is a senior editor and digital content coordinator at Hour Detroit. In her role, Klug writes and edits stories on community, art, food, and lifestyle topics for hourdetroit.com, edits the Hour Daily newsletter, and is involved in planning and proofing the monthly print magazine. She also oversees the editorial web internship program for the magazine. A graduate of Columbia College Chicago, Klug has been with Hour Detroit since 2016. She has also contributed to Hour Media publications DBusiness magazine and Metro Detroit Weddings magazine. You can reach her at eklug@hour-media.com.