The latest volume in Gary Monroe's Highwaymen trilogy
"There are only two ways to get to know Al Black's art: 1) buy this book, or 2) go to jail."--Maarten van de Guchte, director, Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
"The story of a man who had squandered his God-given gift and was able to redeem himself by painting visions of Eden that could give hope to and soothe the terrible pain of his fellow inmates, as well as bring inspiration to the prison staff."--Annegreth T. Nill, chief curator, Museum of Art, Ft. Lauderdale
By now, the story of Florida's Highwaymen--self-trained African American painters whose visions of the state were sold to travelers out of the trunks of their cars--is fairly well known. Emerging in the late 1950s and led by painters such as Alfred Hair and Harold Newton, the Highwaymen produced an astonishing number of landscapes that depict a faraway place of windswept palms, billowing clouds, placid wetlands, and lush sunsets.
As demand soared, Al Black (b. 1946) emerged as a salesman par excellence. Often earning 35 percent commission, he learned to paint partly from repairing damaged works that had been loaded into his car while still wet.
Inevitably, the boom times went bust--Black struggled with drugs and eventually went to prison. While in the Central Florida Reception Center, "Inmate Black" was recognized as painter "Al Black" after the warden read a story by St. Petersburg Times columnist Jeff Klinkenberg about the Highwaymen.
Soon, with the warden's encouragement and permission, Black was painting murals throughout the prison, classic Highwaymen landscapes in unexpected venues. When he left CFRC in 2006, Black had created more than 100 murals for the Department of Corrections. The Highwaymen Murals is the only record of these images available to the public. As such it will quickly become a must-have for any connoisseur of their work.
Gary Monroe, a native of Miami Beach, has photographed throughout Brazil, Israel, Cuba, India, Trinidad, Poland, and Egypt, among other international destinations. He is best known for his long-term photographic involvements with the elderly’s old world culture of South Beach, Haiti during the end of the Duvalier regime and foray into democracy, and tourism as a rite of passage. He has received various honors and distinctions for his work, including two National Endowments for the Arts, four Florida Humanities Council Fellowships, a State of Florida arts fellowship, and two Fulbright Foundation fellowships. Monroe is the author of The Highwaymen: Florida’s African-American Landscape Painters and three other books on Florida’s Highwaymen artists. He has written nine books, most of which acknowledge unrecognized self-taught Florida artists. His most recent book, E. G. Barnhill: Florida Photographer, Adventurer, Entrepreneur, highlights the artist’s hand-colored photographs.
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"a poignant and inspiriing visual experience that speaks to the impact of art on many different levels. The book is a valuable addition to the documentation on the Highwaymen and Florida art, because it may be the only opportunity for those outside the prison to view the murals both today and in the future."
--Florida Historical Quarterly