Alicia Morgan, the curator of the in Peekskill said that she did not hesitate to plan an art show as soon as she saw images of Eugene Allen’s paintings.
“His work is strong and bold; he speaks to the human condition with his strong visual style,” Morgan said.
“When I saw the portfolio of his work, I immediately wanted to do a show at the gallery—he is a huge local talent and is now the first African-American artist to have a major retrospective in Peekskill.”
The artist who died last year was a 1957 graduate of when he was awarded a two-year scholarship to the Art Career School in New York City.
From 1961 to 1963, Allen served in the United States Army as an illustrator and after completing active service, he was employed as an illustrator at the United States Military Academy at West Point for five years. He later moved to Tucson, Arizona where he taught art and photography at Pima Junior College.
His daughter, Peekskill resident Daphne Redd, said that her father was influenced by the Southwest in profound ways.
“My father lived in Mexico for a time to research and study of the Seri Indians in Sonora, several portraits of which can be seen in this retrospective.” She added that in 1978, he created a mural entitled, “Roots of Black History,” depicting the chronology of notable Black Americans—the 8x12 foot mural contains over 400 subjects who have made significant contributions throughout American history and can be viewed at the Northwest Neighborhood Center in Tucson, Arizona.
Allen continued his studies at the prestigious Art Students League under the noted painter William Earle, and later earned a B.A. in graphic and commercial art at New York University.
Redd said that her father was an extremely talented artist who did photography, painting and music as early as she can remember. “He always challenged me to look at a painting and decide for myself what I saw and what it meant,” she said.
Eugene “Gene” Allen’s portraiture style is described as bold, personal and striking; one where the artist had instinctually captured his subjects at their most defiant and vulnerable.
His paintings in oil and acrylic offer a series of portraits that Morgan described as a “literal and unblinking series which strike the viewer and hold them spellbound and fascinated—where every picture leads one a journey to learn more about each subject.”
After her father succumbed to diabetes related complications last year, Daphne Redd said she felt more compelled than ever to share her father’s body of work with the world—something she had always promised him she would do.
“My father would be honored to know that this show is happening; he came back to his hometown of Peekskill after travels around the world," Redd said.
"He had always loved the community and the scenic city—and now he can get the recognition he deserves.”
Eugene Allen (1937-2011): A Memorial Retrospective runs July 7—August 4. Opening Reception: Saturday, July 7, 12-2 p.m. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Eugene Allen’s paintings will be donated to diabetes research.