15:22 PM

Floyd Newsum and ‘Evolution of Sight’ on Video


By Marie Jacinto

A living legend and UHD treasure, renowned artist Floyd Newsum has served as Professor of Art at UHD for 47 years. He has been a trailblazer in his field, breaking barriers in academia, arts institutions, and community engagement, including co-founding Project Row Houses in 1993.DSC04810

On May 19, Newsum’s first large-scale retrospective, “Evolution of Sight,” opened at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in Madison, Wisconsin, with a packed house for the Artist Talk. Afterward, attendees filled the massive gallery showcasing Newsum’s half-century of work. Whether familiar with his art or viewing it for the first time, the museumgoers all had the same response: unmitigated joy.  

Mitchell Loper, PPA, NPPA, APA, SMPTE, WPO (UHD Manager of Photography & Multimedia), was on hand to record the event and to interview Newsum. This video captures the exhibition itself and the artist’s thoughts right before the opening of his retrospective. His exuberance for his life’s calling is undeniable; his love for teaching and community is palpable.

DSC05678Exploring Floyd Newsum’s 50-year career, “Evolution of Sight” reflects on the artist’s entire practice, including paintings and models of public art commissions, such as sculptures and relief installations. The retrospective examines how Newsum’s visual language evolved from initial naturalistic tendencies into varying degrees of abstraction, exploring color, gestural marks, symbols, and forms. Each work captures the deeply personal history of the artist with family photographs and symbols veiled by richly layered color and textures that create tactile surfaces.

Born in 1950 in Memphis, Tennessee, Newsum is the son of one of the first Black American firefighters in the South, and the ladder is a prominent symbol in many of his paintings. Following his graduation from the Memphis College of Art, Newsum earned a Master of Fine Arts from Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia. In 1976, Newsum and his family moved to Houston.

Guest curators Dr. Lauren Cross, Gail-Oxford Associate Curator of American Decorative Arts at The Huntington in San Marino, California, and Mark Cervenka, UHD Professor of Art and O’Kane Gallery Director, organized the exhibition by engaging in a dialogue that reflects on the depth and extent of the artist’s production. “Evolution of Sight” follows Newsum’s trajectory across six different thematic areas: Social Justice and Community; Angels and Souls; Women, Family, and Ancestors; Sirigu and Transcendence; Land, Sea, and Dance; and Contemplation.DSC07764

Rather than curating a traditional retrospective, Cervenka looked back to Newsum’s foundational pieces, and Cross brought attention to work made in the last few years. This collaboration resulted in a nesting exhibition of early works in conversation with the artist’s most recent series and celebrates the career of a groundbreaking artist whose work and activism aim to inspire others to see the joy in everyday people and things.

Watch the video of Newsum talking about his nearly 50-year career and how it wrought his “Evolution of Sight.”


About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.