Athlone Clarke

Our Introduction to Athlone Clarke
by: Jennia Fredrique Aponte

The level of talent that descended upon Miami’s Art Basel in December of 2021 was enormous and overwhelming. Sol and I spent hours each day pouring over thousands of pieces of art work and marveling at work countless artists.

Our focus was Black Art as we are in the midst of filming a feature length documentary on the subject. Sol and I share a deep love of art and an almost inexhaustible energy surrounding all things in the art world.

On our last day of Basel, we happily wandered off the beaten path to an event hosted by one of our favorite artists Bisa Butler. We’d get to see the Jersey based artist in person and enjoy some good music and vibes at the event held at the historic Ward Rooming House Gallery in Overton.

We were not prepared for what was about to happen. It was at this little pop-up art event that we would get the pleasure and honor of experiencing the brilliant expressions of Athlone Clarke.

Athlone was born in Jamaica and immigrated to the United States in the mid-eighties. The mixed media artist began his professional career as a writer before realizing that his true passion was in visual arts.

I wasn’t surprised when I found out Clarke began as a writer as every piece of his artwork tells a story. I found myself lost in what felt like was a truly authentic creative expression, and before I knew it, I was standing before one of his pieces in an emotional overload. Unexpected tears began to roll down my face, in a way that I’ve never experience before while taking in a piece of art. It felt as though my ancestors and their stories were somehow captured in the objects I was observing.

Although Athlone wasn’t present at the exhibition, as he rarely attends his art shows, his two beautiful sons Forrest and Ocean were present and represented him in a manner that was quite impressive. The Clarke sons were being bombarded with questions from other enthusiasts and I couldn’t wait for my turn to speak the descendants of an artist Sol and I  classified as a genius.

When we finally got a moment to speak with one of his sons, Forrest informed us that his father doesn’t really have a particular style and has always avoided the distraction of trying to find one. The self taught artist’s work is experimentation along with spontaneity.

Sol and I are fairly new to the world of art collecting, but our first rule regarding purchasing is to only purchase work that truly moved us, both of us, and Athlone’s work quickly moved to the top of our ‘Pieces We Must Own” list.

Several months after becoming better acquainted with Forrest and exploring Athlone’s work, we had the privilege of speaking with Athlone directly about his artistry.

“The people who collect my work tend to be deep thinkers, and have transcended beyond color swatches, and matching décor. They are not necessarily looking for something safe and scripted that the neighbor might have, but rather a work of art that is capable of challenging the mind in very unconventional ways. My goal is to try and create work that will be just as relevant in the year twenty-one hundred and fifty-six, as it is today. Maybe I am putting my hat way beyond my reach, but my unshakable belief in the originality and longevity of my creative effort is really the fuel that keeps me moving forward.” - Athlone Clark.

Each object has its own story,” he explains. “What is required is the ability to put aside cynicism and learn to listen to the silence with intention. This helps me to avoid the temptation of just throwing random objects together. I try to interpret the tactile experience as I study each object, some which have been in my studio for decades and waiting for its moment. I’ll find a single object from the sixties Civil Rights movement, maybe a button or a sign, and I’ll try to interpret its story and hopefully contract a piece that I believe will pull the view deep into that particular moment of history.” Clarke goes on to explain that there are times when he imagines himself as a choir conductor who is able to hear the various voices of each object and then he tried to find a way to bring them together in a harmonious, captivating, and even provocative way.

Athlone’s goal is to stimulate the viewer on both the conscious and subconscious level and with Sol and I, he did exactly that! There is an undeniable energy emanating from his work, and to experience it in person is purely magical. It is an honor and pleasure to showcase him for the first time in Los Angeles, for Juneteenth 2022.

For more information on Athlone Clarke visit: www.AthloneClarke.com