Roscoe Hall’s homecoming exhibit at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center

Brandon Smith, Contributing Writer

\The University of Alabama Gallery is currently presenting “Roscoe Hall: Two Houses,” featuring Black artist and Tuscaloosa native, Roscoe Hall, at Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center until Feb. 23. The exhibit displays eight unique art pieces, some like “With Great Intent to Leave It All For You” created as recently as last year.  

Hall is somewhat of a local celebrity because of the legacy of his grandfather, John “Big Daddy” Bishop, who opened Tuscaloosa’s Dreamland Bar-B-Que in 1958. Hall said he has “dual citizenship,” belonging to both Alabama and Chicago, where he was raised.   

Though art has always been the focus of his academic career, in his professional work, Hall was a trained chef, although he’s now retired. He worked in Michelin Star restaurants and even made an appearance on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef. 

Hall now does art full-time. Most recently, Hall had a solo exhibition entitled “Angola: Works in Response” at Lowe Mills Arts and Entertainment in Huntsville, Alabama. Several of his pieces are permanently featured at the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts and at the Birmingham Museum of Art. “Two Houses” is the first exhibit he has ever done in the county he claims home to. 

Hall is a mixed media painter with a very distinct, contemporary style, and his artwork is unique since he isn’t afraid to step outside of the bounds of traditional art. Common materials in his art pieces are oil paints, oil pastels and charcoal, but he also uses sheets of paper towels and denim to detail his paintings. One example is the portrait of his grandfather titled “No Farting,” where he uses paper towels to texture the face with pores. 

Hall said his charcoal is made from wood he finds, and many of his paints are made from seasonings like turmeric and cayenne pepper. 

“It’s totally unexpected and unintentional, but on days where it’s really hot, some of [the paintings] will start to smell like a campfire or like something’s cooking,” Hall said. 

The naming of the exhibit “Two Houses” is two-fold.  

“It is the title of a painting he sold that depicted two houses, but it also reflects the artist himself because he has one foot in his background as a trained chef and his background in art,” Daniel White, the director of the UA Galleries, said. 

White said that Hall realized recently that much of his work is subtly inspired by the late Thornton Dial, a native Alabama artist who, like Hall, created biographical art pieces that reflected on his life as a Black American.  

Hall said he looks for opportunities to present his work and make space for other Black artists.   

“It’s important [to me] to show all of my Black experience. It’s not just sadness, which is not what I want them to see and think when they see my art. It is part of it, but that’s not all it is,” Hall said. 

Like most artists, Hall’s work draws inspiration from his life experiences. His artwork reflects on his own experiences as a Black man growing up and living in America in the 1980s and ’90s. One of his pieces titled “Government Promises” depicts his hometown of Jerusalem Heights.  

“A lot of the work in this show is dealing with stories — personal narratives — from his past, little glimpses and snapshots of his life,” White said. 

Hall said he considers himself to be a part of the modern-day Black Arts Movement, which focuses on Black artists taking up more space and gaining more attention in the art world. 

“My [social media page] is filled with Black art, but we make up less than one percent,” Hall said.  

White said Hall was “very receptive and excited about the opportunity” to show his work in Tuscaloosa — and during Black History Month, no less, a month celebrated by African Americans as they acknowledge their history and think about the future of Black representation in the United States.  

The exhibit is free to visit. The Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., located at 620 Greensboro Ave.