An exhibition of works created during these COVID times, “Danny Simmons… Studio Time” explores the desired connection we need, have, and want with one another and the Universe.
I recently went to internationally acclaimed abstract-expressionist painter and author Danny Simmons’ “… Studio Time” exhibition on view at InLiquid. While I’ve long been familiar with his work, I found myself particularly transfixed by several of these pieces Danny Simmons created during the 2020 pandemic. I couldn’t understand what was stirring within me, but I knew it was powerful. I also knew that it was for a reason.
So, I wandered around the gallery no less than three times thinking my feelings would shift.
But that did not occur.
Instead, I found myself being drawn deeper into these images, this art. And more than anything I felt that it was touching, possibly, my inner core.
When I had a chance to speak with Simmons about it, his answers uncovered the nature and depth of what I was experiencing coping with stay-at-home orders.
Indeed, it was a soul-to-soul connection. Via art.
“What else do we have right now but our artistic expressions?” pondered Simmons, who once coined his particular style of painting as “neo-African Abstract Expressionism.”
“I mean, we have more but I think the most poignant thing that we could probably do now is to talk about it in whatever ways we have. Dance. Art. Poetry. Because it reaches so many people on so many different levels and touches people. All these words from the media and all that is great. But when you create a piece of art, you’re talking from one soul to another. And that’s what people need. That’s what the whole thing is about… Connection. And so, we got to strive towards making connections with other people, because people are really hurting. They’re afraid. Don’t have the resources. Lost their job. Lost family members. Things have happened on this pandemic to so many poor people in and around Philadelphia who were struggling from the jump.”
Simmons, who hails from Queens, NY, has embraced Philadelphia as his home and artistic outlet for over six years. He’s the big brother of Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons of Run-DMC and hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons, with whom he established HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam,” winning a Tony Award for the Broadway version of the show. The Simmons brothers formed Rush Philanthropic Foundation, with Danny founding Rush Arts Philadelphia and RAP Gallery II, a new solo exhibition/arts education gallery that opened in 2019. The same year he was appointed to Philadelphia Museum of Art’s African American Collections Committee.
Today, his works appear in the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn Museum, Chase Manhattan Bank, Deutsche Bank, Schomburg Center for Black Culture, The Smithsonian, United Nations, United States State Department Collection, David Driskell Collection, Petrucci Family Foundation, PAFA Collection… And, on an international scope has shown work in France, Amsterdam, and Ghana.
Like many artists trying to negotiate a world impacted by Covid, Danny found his creative energy flowing in response to social isolation. He used the opportunity to throw himself fully into his studio practice and create beauty and hope during these dark times. In addition to the body of work on display at InLiquid, he wrote, Red,” a book of prose set to be released this Spring.
“During this time, I did drawings for all the poems. And this was something I had not done for years. With all of these abstract drawings. And we were matching drawings to poems,” explained Simmons.
“I’ve been doing circles and connections for a long time. And what the pandemic did was make it tighter. Because of the fact that human beings were not able to be together and the spiritual connection, which is what I’m always striving to bring out in my work, the spiritual connection between people and us and higher spirit. The universe had to be more present with all of us. Because we were alone, essentially. And we were in fear.”
Simmons continued, “So when I started, I didn’t really think about it as much as I intuited, that we need to bring these things tighter and be together more on a plane where it didn’t matter that we couldn’t touch, but be able to reach out to each other in other ways. And so, I started making these circles and overlapping circles that’s always come in together, forming a whole mosaic of color and beauty. At first, it wasn’t intentional, but it became intentional that I was representing a feeling. I just kept working towards that end. To represent this feeling was very personal with me.”
InLiquid Presents “Danny Simmons… Studio Time” exhibition on view through February 20, 2021, at 1400 N. American Street, Gallery 108, Philadelphia, PA 19122. Gallery hours are by appointment during the week and from 12- 5 pm on weekends. Make an appointment using the Calendly, and call the InLiquid office at (215) 235-3405 upon arrival. Masks are required.