Sherman Beck USA, b. 1942


Sherman Beck has studied art all of his life. He was one of the original 10 members of AFRICOBRA.


“I attended Dunbar Vocational High School in Chicago during the years when school pride was common,” says Beck. “The late, great Garrett Whyte was our teacher back then. He motivated many students who became successful artists. I attended classes with serious, notable artists like, Omar Lama, Kush Bey, Seitu Nurullah, and others. Our predecessors were artists such as Jose Williams and Edward Strong. The environment was fertile, and the school produced an exceptional number of people, like Bernard Shaw [and] Haki Madhubuti." A graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Beck pursued further studies at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. He worked as a commercial artist and apprenticed at advertising agencies in display, sign, and filmstrip, and he also worked as a freelance illustrator. For several years, Beck owned and operated Art Directions, an art supply store in Chicago. He returned to his alma mater, Dunbar High School, to teach for twenty-two years, the longest term of a commercial art teacher there.


“Teaching was a big part of my life,” he says, “but the system was layered with bureaucracy that decreased productivity. I am happy to be retired now.”


About his work, Beck says, “I have studied various schools of painting and admire the passion in Van Gogh’s work. I like Monet, Dali, and especially like Victor Vasarely’s optical illusion. I was influenced by AFRICOBRA’s philosophy of making aesthetic contributions to the Black community and addressing the needs of the community by making affordable reproductions. The late Jeff Donaldson coined the phrase, 'Kool-Aid Colors,' a principle that sparked the interest of all kinds of people. The AFRICOBRA artists were tops when it came to scholarship. Most of them were college professors and I was happy when invited to work with them.


"My work is abstract with figuration in it. I try to present identifiable figures, which lead into the abstract. I’m still exploring aspects of handling paint. The challenge now is to continue to enliven the spirit. Artists are no longer the agents that shape how people think. With so much photography and computer technology, we are forced to think differently. I know that my purpose is different from that of DaVinci and Michelangelo.”