Formally trained as an illustrator, Lavar Munroe is searching for a way to bridge the gap between his experience creating visual content for books and magazines and his desire to create work that could be considered fine art.
This Sunday, an exhibition of Munroe’s new work opens at the Beach Institute, including a reception and gallery talk with the artist.
There is no doubt the images he creates are strong enough to stand on their own. They are deeply layered with an array of symbolic elements and often based around strong, central compositions. He counts among his influences contemporary Chinese art, Art Nouveau and ancient religious texts.
“I look at a lot of manuscripts, like biblical manuscripts from olden times – not so much for drawing, but more for composition and themes,” Munroe explains. “Even though it might not be as evident, my work has a lot of biblical type composition.”
Amplifying the layers of his work is the bright palette, something that he ascribes to his upbringing in the Bahamas.
“The color influence is definitely from home,” says Munroe. “Our houses are blues, pinks and yellows and maroons.”
For Munroe, a native Bahamian, the islands and their culture plays a significant role in the series at the Beach Institute – particularly how an influx of Haitian culture over the last several years has impacted his homeland.
Haitian culture had intrigued Munroe before January’s tragic earthquake put an international spotlight on the island.
He explains that he has watched years of Haitian immigrants establish themselves and their culture in the Bahamas, and he became intrigued with darker elements of the immigrant culture, including cockfighting and voodoo, themes which began to appear more often in his work.
“They brought that to my home, and I was exposed to it. From the cockfighting series, then the earthquake happened in January, and after that I was surrounded by it,” Munroe says. “It was not so much about the earthquake, but the religious beliefs and the lifestyle and culture.”
After the earthquake, Munroe became even more fascinated with the religious aspects of Haitian culture, particularly in light of comments from Pat Roberts and others on the religious right who claimed the natural disaster was an act of God’s wrath for the island’s idolatrous beliefs.
His work has been shown at galleries nationally and internationally during the last few years, but this show at the Beach Institute’s gallery will be the first time this new series of work has been shown publicly.
To the untrained eye, the images might appear to be a cleverly executed digital collage, however, Munroe is quick to dispel the myth that he is some sort of computer artist.
His work begins with images drawn by hand, which he says “could stand alone in galleries.” Once he’s satisfied with the drawings, he scans them into digital form and experiments with color and texture.
For Munroe, the chance to exhibit here is a return to familiar territory. Although he and his wife currently reside in Raleigh, NC, they both met in Savannah while attending SCAD.
New Work by Lavar Munroe
When: Reception and gallery talk April 18, 3 p.m.
Where: Beach Institute, 502 E. Harris St.
Info: www.kingtisdell.org or www.lavar–munroe.com