Artist Ronald Hall makes paintings that seamlessly blend figurative elements, painterly abstract passages, and post-pop art flourishes, into compositions that have the affect of a fever dream. They are "a kaleidoscopic fusion of urban energy," he says, that "attempt to challenge the viewers interpretation of what contemporary black art is." He sees art as an educational tool and towards that end weaves together complicated narratives that grapple with historical and contemporary issues faced by African Americans.
In Expulsion (2018) we see a mournful looking man sitting on a box peering up at a sullen faced black and white bust. The narrative could be taken in many directions, but the word 'expulsion' leads me directly to the present crisis in public education that has resulted in black students being suspended at a rate at least three times higher than their white counterparts. In this context, the man is a disappointed parent coming to terms with the broken promises of American Education.
Servants of Labor (2012) is among Hall's more designer-ly work. It is evenly split down the middle into a flat wall and staircase on one side and a deep view of a bedroom with playing children, a neighborhood seen through the window behind them. Elements borrowed from comics illustration help the narrative along: a speech bubble descending the staircase contains a portrait of a stern looking black woman (as if she is shouting down the stairs with only her eyes); a pink action burst coming from the playing children. A man at the edge of the scene looks towards the exit as if weighing his options after coming home from work. It's a quaint domestic scene that, with its title, suggests that unpaid work at home and work at a job are equal in that they are both labors of servitude.
The Coming (2017) features a strange desert-like expanse with a single building, a dead woman on the ground, and a grieving man kneeling beside her. Above her floats the head of #45, tape over his mouth reading "I can't breathe." The sky is dark and stormy and surely is intended as a metaphor for the dark times of the present, spurred by the unlikely ascension of a fascist buffoon.