A week into his first ever solo show, local DC artist, Maurice James Jr. appeared in the Washington Post with an extremely favourable review by esteemed art critic Mark Jenkins. For ease, we have copied and pasted the review below, and included a link to the Washington Post review below.
Maurice E. James Jr.
In 1966, Marvel Comics introduced its first superhero of color, the Black Panther. Five years later, “Shaft” and “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” inaugurated the Blaxploitation champion. But where were the Black gladiators, secret agents and space rebels? D.C. artist Maurice E. James Jr. had no choice but to invent them retroactively, stitching together vintage pop-culture remnants into the prints displayed in his 11:Eleven Gallery show, “What If?” The computer-generated collages rewrite the 1960s and ’70s for an all-Black cast.
The artist isn’t rectifying his own history; he grew up collecting comics and other low-cost artifacts in the 1980s and ’90s. He combines his archival knowledge and graphic-arts skills to update “Star Wars,” “Spartacus” and other epic underdog fantasies from before his time. His witty mash-ups imagine Sammy Davis Jr. as 007; introduce James Baldwin to the X-Men; and place feral model/singer Grace Jones on the cover of the boxing magazine the Ring, where she looks entirely at home.
James looks back to 1938 to put a brown-skinned Superman on the cover of the epochal “Action Comics #1.” But most of his raw material is from the years that brought us Playboy, Princess Leia and COINTELPRO — all phenomena the artist references. That’s an era whose strong, sleek graphic style has retained its punch. And if something else was missing, James knows how to interject it.
Maurice E. James Jr.: What If? Through March 21 at 11:Eleven Gallery, 10 Florida Ave. NW.