Remembering Ernest Frazier

Ernest Frazier

The artist Ernest Frazier will be honored and remembered in a Memorial Exhibition that will open with a reception, 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, September 7 and will continue through October 9, at The Lace Mill Gallery, 165 Cornell Street, Kingston, 12401,with a schedule of events that will continue throughout the exhibition. 

Frazier, who passed away in 2004, had works collected by the Whitney Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Woodstock Artists Association and Museum Permanent Collection, had solo exhibitions at Byrdcliffe, a 14-year retrospective at Barrett House Gallery, Schenectady Museum, and appeared in group exhibitions at WAAM, Albany Institute of History and Art, The James Cox Gallery, all these among many, many others. 

“It was always my impression that he was one of the few people who knew what the whole thing about making art was all about, and who actually lived the existence of a true artist,” the former SUNY New Paltz painting teacher, the late Ben Wigfall said of his friend, who was one of the only other black artists in the area for many years. “He was totally dedicated to painting, a very rare person.”
Ernest Frazier was born on a farm in Duboise Crossroads, South Carolina, in 1942 to the late Ernest Frazier Sr. and Maggie Jenkins Frazier Raines, now of Kingston. According to his own stories, his mother placed him in a knapsack when he was six months old and hitchhiked to Harlem, where he learned to draw by copying comic books.

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At 15 Frazier began to paint, eventually scraping together the tuition for a year at the School of Visual Arts. Funds for a second year failed to materialize.
Feeling cornered by closing options, Frazier joined the Marines and was sent to Vietnam as part of the Special Forces of the early 1960s. When he returned from action “embittered and volatile,” as he later described his feelings to Direct Art magazine, he became “hellbent” on making art.

Untitled acrylic on canvas by Ernest Frazier.

Ronald DeNitto, an artist friend of Frazier’s, who is hosting this current show, wrote “In a time dominated by badly organized, merely decorative, spiritless or downright dumb art, Ernest Frazier’s work stands as a beacon of integrity, energy and painterly sophistication.

Frazier had great natural talent. Secure in his genius, he produced works of a very high order. Brilliantly inventive, he was persistently searching for the best way to express himself. Frazier’s work had the vitality and immediacy of the best of Jazz — Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane come to mind.

“Notwithstanding his awards and inclusions in a number of Whitney Museum Annuals and exhibitions and other notable venues, and the consistent kudos he received from his contemporaries, Frazier’s reputation after his death has been fallow. The present show in the Lace Mill Galleries is an effort to compensate for this unfortunate neglect.

“He suffered as a black man in a racist society but Frazier identifies as a world citizen.  He viewed humanity as a whole. Always he remained a man deeply loving and socially concerned…

“Several months after he died, I was working in my studio when I thought of Ernie and told myself I should give him a call when I realized I could not because he was dead.  Instead I sat down and wrote the following lines:

Ernie
The dark and people-empty street
Outside your studio
Is swept by rain
You’ve moved beyond your pain
We are sustained through your art
You turned to wave goodbye
Before crossing the bridge
On your way home.

The Ernest Frazier Memorial Exhibition is available for viewing noon-5 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday through October 9. For more information, or for a viewing at another time, call 845-481-5402, or email freyad2000@yahoo.com


Tribute events at the Lace Mill for Ernest Frazier:

Classical music by Peter Mancuso (piano), Pauline Mancuso (flute), 4 p.m. Sunday, September 8. 

Jazz by Nick Lyons (alto), Alvaro Domane (guitar), Michael Bisio (bass), 4 p.m. Sunday, September 29. 

Jazz by Juma Sultan (percussion), Adam Siegel (alto), Michael Bisio (bass), 4 p.m. Saturday, October 5. 

Jazz by Matthew Shipp (piano), Michael Bisio (bass), Newman Taylor Baker (drums), 4 p.m. Sunday, October 13.

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