For five decades, the artist and activist T.J. Reddy has educated and inspired through his paintings – and he’s one of our own. Reddy has received widespread acclaim for his work with collectors, including Maya Angelou, Ben Chavis, Ben Vereen and former U.S. Rep. Mel Watt. The University presents a retrospective of Reddy’s life in "Everything is Everything," on display in the UNC Charlotte City City Projective Eye Gallery through Aug. 20. Reddy will speak at the opening reception July 20.
Born in Savannah, Georgia, Reddy and his family moved to New York City when he was 14. He came to Charlotte in 1964 to attend Johnson C. Smith University.
He ultimately graduated from UNC Charlotte, receiving undergraduate degrees in history and sociology and a master’s degree in education. While at the University, he helped form the Black Student Union and the Africana Studies Department. A civil rights activist, Reddy was convicted in a 1972 civil rights case known as "The Charlotte Three." He received a 20-year sentence but was released in 1979 after Gov. Jim Hunt commuted his sentence.
Reddy will talk about his work during an opening reception, scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, July 20, at the Projective Eye Gallery at UNC Charlotte Center City. Check out our recent interview with Reddy for a sneek peak.
The exhibition includes imagery from many different bodies of work – "King Warrior Magician Lover," "Psychological Castration," "Blues Men and Women," "Scenes for the Teacher," "Family Portraits," "Havoc in Haiti," "Savanah Scenes," poetry books and papers – all made during a courageous life triumphant in its affirmations.
There are four magic ingredients in every Reddy painting: color, symbolism, narrative and transformation. His work is often categorized as a kind of social realism; a better description may be a social surrealist, with a propensity toward nature and narrative. Multiple characters are continually woven into intricate archetypes, and there is an omnipresent sense of the divine feminine. Everyone is there, together as one tapestry in time, weaving allegory and paradox; the knowing gives way to the creative journey of mystery.
Reddy’s work had been exhibited in Los Angeles, Houston, New Orleans, Detroit and Orlando. In Charlotte, his works are in the collections of the Mint Museum, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for Afro-American Arts and Culture, the Levine Children’s Hospital and UNC Charlotte.
Beyond painting, Reddy is also an active poet and has published poetry in numerous journals and collections. His papers, including letters, articles and legal documents pertaining to "The Charlotte Three" are housed in the J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections at UNC Charlotte.