Outsider Visionary Art Brut: Spiritual Leon Kennedy

African-American spiritual visionary Leon Kennedy (b. 1945, Houston, Texas) uses mixed media on found objects to paint ecstatic visions, memory paintings, and urban life portraits. Kennedy is featured on several pages of Rosnak’s “Contemporary American Folk Art” (Abbeville, 1996), and in Betty-Carol Sellen’s important survey, “Self Taught, Outsider, and Folk Art” (McFarland & Company, 1999).

In 1997, the Smithsonian Institution purchased 200 significant works from the renowned Rosenak collection for an undisclosed sum estimated to be near $2M. This acquisition included a bed-sheet by Kennedy. The 1997 Folk Art Messenger, Vol. 10, No.3, reported that the acquisition makes the Smithsonian American Art Museum the world’s preeminent repository for American self-taught art.
“It is our desire to see them as part of the history of 20th-century American art,” said Chuck Rosenak.

Mentioning Kennedy, the article notes these works were the first American collection exhibited at the Collection de l’Art Brut, Switzerland, which “testifies to its quality and uniqueness.” The Leon Kennedy masterwork now resides at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, while photos of Kennedy and other materials of Kennedy’s are available for study at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Contemporary American Folk Art: A Collectors Guide. ROSENAK, CHUCK and JAN ROSENAK, New York: Abbeville, 1996.
The Folk Art Messenger. Vol. 10, No. 3, Spring, Summer 1997.
Self Taught, Outsider, and Folk Art. Betty-Carol Sellen, (McFarland & Company, 1999).
Black Creation: A Quarterly Review of Black Arts and Letters. Vol. 4 (Fall 1972). Beauford, Fred, ed.
The Black Artist in America: An Index to Reproductions, THOMISON, DENNIS. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1991.
Country: United States
Books: Contemporary American Folk Art: A Collectors Guide.

Permanent collections
1997 Smithsonian American Art Museum (then the National Museum of American Art) acquisition.
1990 The House of Blues, multiple acquisitions.

Solo Exhibitions
2009 A440 Gallery, AMERICAN VISIONARY, San Francisco, CA
2005 Kings Gallery, San Francisco Unitarian Universalist Church
2000 Oakland City Hall, Oakland, CA
1996 Good Samaritan Baptist Church, Oakland, CA
1995 La Pena Cultural Center, Berkeley, CA
1992 West Berkeley Senior Citizens Center, Berkeley, CA
1988 Richmond City Hall, Richmond, CA

Group Shows
2009 New York Outsider Art Fair
2007 Revolving Museum, Lowell, MA, “Race Class Gender”
2006 American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore, MD, “Race Class Gender”
2005 Robert Cargo Gallery, PA, “The Dream Lives On”
2005 Richmond Art Center, Richmond, CA
2003 Black Box, Oakland, CA, “Absolute Reflection”
2000 San Francisco Arts Commission “Extraordinary Artists,” curated by Bonnie Grossman, The Ames Gallery
2000 SOMArts Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1999 Visual Aid’s “Big Deal”
1997 Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne, Switzerland
1996 Sheppard Art Gallery, University of Nevada, Reno, NV, “Memories and Visions: Self-Taught and Outsider Artists West of the Rockies”
1994 African American Museum, Dallas, TX
1994 Skyline College, San Bruno, CA, “Emerging Talent: African American Artists of California”
1992 California State University, Hayward, CA, “Vernacular Art”
1992 2000 (annually) Berkeley Civic Arts Commission, Berkeley, CA (Windows Project)
1991 Creative Growth Art Center, Oakland, CA, “The Gospel Connection” with Louis Estape


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