New York

Willie Birch


A native of New Orleans and a resident of Brooklyn, Willie Birch has focused primarily on telling the story of black urban life through sophisticated visual portraits and fables. His figurative, brightly colored narrative paintings and papier-mâché sculptures are informed by folk and funk in equal measure. But in his recent installation, entitled Spirit House, 1993, Birch set his sights on three African-American traditions of the rural South: the yard show, the shotgun shack, and the bottle tree. Lining the perimeter of the central room with a variety of empty bottles and dried flowers, he constructed a simple wood and papier-mâché frame house in the center, out of which a real tree sprouted. Both the house and tree were garlanded with bottles and a variety of other objects as well as poems, contributed not only by the artist himself, but by 106 others—a communal effort that underscored

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