Ealy Mays, one of the most original figures of the modern art world, described by Jacob Lawrence as one of the best narrative painter he had ever met, and whose work was exhibited in museums such as Mexico’s Galeria Clava, New York’s Guggenheim, Atlanta’s Hammonds House, and Paris’s Louvre, is now in Budapest.
Texas-born and Paris-based global contemporary painter Ealy Mays had an early taste for art: he started painting at the age of four and had his first art show in the White House at the age of eight. But despite these auspicious beginnings, he chose to follow in his father’s footsteps and those of his two elder brothers to become a doctor, even though art was always his true passion.
While finishing his studies in Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara School of Medicine in Mexico, he continued painting. Mays met and befriended celebrated muralist Rufino Tamayo, who inspired his Blue Watermelon series. Mays also became familiar with the works of legendary Mexican muralists José Clemente Orozco and Diego Riviera, whose art on extremely large surfaces and murals impressed him.
Back in the USA, in Maine, Mays attended the prestigious Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. His work came to the attention of Jacob Lawrence, the most widely acclaimed African-American artist of the twentieth century. In a letter of reference to the Studio Museum in Harlem, Lawrence described Mays as a ‘pure painter’, emphasising his natural talent and his audacity in never following the crowd. During his Skowhegan stay, he met fellow artists Roy Lichtenstein and Anish Kapoor, video artist Gary Hill, and photo-artist Nan Goldin.
In search of an ‘intellectual environment to think, to breathe, to paint’ Mays moved to Paris in the 1990s where he was chosen to reside at the Cité Internationale des Arts and continued working on his Mammy, Cosmic, and Conscious series. He also created the Paris series, where he projects his experiences both as an African-American and as an American expat living in Paris. International recognition of Mays’s work went from strength to strength. He continued exhibiting in the USA and in Europe and his work series The Migration of the Superheroes was showcased twice at the Carrousel du Louvre, in 2005 and in 2007. He also participated in a Barack-Obama-themed exhibition in Paris, which received coverage in the New York Times in 2009 and in the French Le Monde.
Ealy Mays sees himself as a social critic. His work embodies ethnicity, politics, history, religion, and satire. We are fortunate that what is on exhibit represents about 30 years of some of Mays’s social commentary and observations, taking the viewer on an adventure around the world.
written by Timea Klincsek
video by m5TV Magyar Televizio, Cultural News section