Things to do in Miami: “Matters of the Inner City” at African Heritage Cultural Arts

From childhood, Charles Humes, Jr. wanted to be an artist.

“I thought that was going to be my career. I was going to be famous, I was going to sell my stuff, and that was all I would do, that was all I wanted to do,” the Miami native explains. “But then reality set in.”

There were bills to pay, a family to support. So, for more than 30 years, Humes shared that passion as an art teacher with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Today, the artist can enjoy his first solo exhibition in decades, presented at the Amadlozi Gallery of the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center until February 19.

“Matters of the Inner City” features works in a variety of media, examining “the psyche and state of the black experience in Miami and its inner cities,” according to its artist statement.

Having retired, Humes found himself, like many, with free time and a lot on his mind in 2020, living through the COVID-19 lockdown and the unrest following the murder of George Floyd.

“I thought to myself, ‘Well, you know, what about here in Liberty City? What can I do as a visual artist to raise awareness about the situation and the struggles that black people face , people of color?'”

The results include stunning pieces that use a technique Humes calls mosaic collage, with meticulously cut pieces of paper taken from printed materials. Humes glues scraps to create depth and shadows. They also make statements, if one reads the fine print.

Life-size photographs of these works fail to capture their complexity.

Although the exhibition is a collection of beautiful works of art, some pieces have quite humble beginnings.

“I guess a lot of the work could be called actual found art,” says Humes, recounting how he would go “provide,” looking for discarded materials he could use.

Click to enlarge

“Matters of the Inner City” was produced with the support of Oolite Arts.

Photo by Gregory Reed

Once he found a pile of rolled up canvases behind a furniture store: “It was my lucky day, I said ‘Bonanza!'”

The stuff was soaked and soiled, he said, but you would never know that from seeing it adorned and displayed as it is now.

Other works on display, notably drawings, are simpler. At this point in his career, Humes says he’s less concerned with producing great work than getting a message across.

“I’ve been criticized for that because sometimes it looks like a job isn’t finished, it’s a bit hard or uneven, but that’s the way it is,” he says.

“Matters of the Inner City” was produced with support from Oolite Arts; Humes won one of his Creator Awards in 2020. He spoke to a standing crowd of over 50 at a January 22 reception at the gallery.

During Miami Art Week 2021, Amadlozi Gallery hosted “Le Art Noir, Diversity in Color” in partnership with former Miami Dolphins player Louis Oliver. Its next exhibition, featuring mixed folk art, is scheduled to open in March.

Now back to doing his life’s work full time, Humes is looking forward to a show in Miami Beach later this year. And he has an idea for a set of coins inspired by Paul Cadmus’ “The Seven Deadly Sins” series.

“But it can take on a whole other meaning than just greed and avarice and all those things,” he says. “I’ll tie it to what’s happening here in Miami.”

– Tracy Fields,

“Inner City Affairs.” On view through Saturday, February 19 at the Amadlozi Gallery at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, 6161 NW 22nd Ave., Miami; 305-638-6771; Free entry.

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