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 including a bed-sheet painting by Leon Kennedy from the renowned Rosenak collection for an estimated $2,000,000. Folk Art Messenger (Vol. 10, No.3, 1997) reported that the acquisition makes the Smithsonian American Art Museum the world’s preeminent repository for American self-taught art.
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.”
“It is our desire to see them as part of the history of 20th-century American art,” said Chuck Rosenak.
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. Leon Kennedy’s works are included in many excellent public and private collections. Like Reverend Howard Finster, Kennedy often references the Bible, usually on verso. Exhibited and compared with Bill Traylor, Martin Ramirez, Adolf Wölfli, and others steeped in Visionary Spiritual vernacular.
Leon Kennedy Bibliography
Contemporary American Folk Art: A Collectors Guide. ROSENAK, New York: Abbeville, 1996.
American Self-taught Art: An Illustrated Analysis of 20th Century Artists, Florence Laffal, Julius Laffal, McFarland & Company, Jan 1, 2003
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.
The Street Spirit: The Visionary Folk Art of Leon Kennedy, April 2014.
Smithsonian American Art Museum
The House of Blues
American Visionary Art Museum
Museum of Biblical Art
2015 – East Bay Depot, Oakland, CA
2014 – 2520 Telegraph, Oakland, CA
2014 – The Alameda Main Library “Paintings by folk artist Leon Kennedy”
2013 – Alameda: Redux Studios & Gallery
2013 – Inferno Gallery “Visions of an Oakland Artist” Oakland, CA
2009 – A440 Gallery, AMERICAN VISIONARY, San Francisco, CA
2010 – John F. Kennedy University Arts and Consciousness Gallery
2005 – Kings Gallery, San Francisco Unitarian Universalist Church
2001 – Flora Lamson Hewlett Library
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
1980 – San Francisco Art Commission @ AAACC SARGENT JOHNSON GALLERY
1976 – WHITNEY YOUNG CIRCLE
2015 – OAKSTOP, Oakland, CA, “Black Artists On Art”
2011 – AMES GALLERY, New York Outsider Art Fair
2010 – AMES GALLERY, 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,” 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”
1995 – Bomani Art Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1994 – African American Museum, Dallas, TX
1994 – Skyline College, San Bruno, CA, “Emerging Talent: African American Artists of CA”
1992 – California State University, Hayward, CA, “Vernacular Art”
1992 – 2000 – Berkeley Civic Arts Commission, Berkeley, CA (Windows Project)
1991 – Creative Growth Art Center, Oakland, CA, “The Gospel Connection” with Louis Estape
1990 – City Hall Gallery, Richmond, CA
1967 – 1974 Blackman Art Gallery, san Francisco, CA
Several Auction Records on AskArt