Sherman Beck joined AFRICOBRA in 1969, the year after its founding. One of the original ten members, Beck was noted in the group for choosing to not use words in his pieces, instead wanting them to speak without language, something universal and unconscious. Cherilyn C. Wright described Beck in 1970, noting these qualities- "Sherman Beck BLOWS MINDS. He a Libra. He don' write on his pieces. He don' even name 'em. Don' need to. His Locus: the black/people/mind. Images come exploding out at you past a thousand infinities. It's deep. Yeah. He saying exceed your possibilities, people! people!" This broadness was echoed by AFRICOBRA founder Jeff Donaldson, the same year, saying of the group's intentions, "We try to create images that appeal to the senses - not to the intellect."
Beck would later give the piece a title to help clarify some of its intents. Though Beck would officially leave AFRICOBRA in the 1970s (he chose to stay in Chicago, while most of the group headed East towards Howard University), he maintained a dedicated studio practice for his entire adult life, revisiting many of the motifs he worked on with AFRICOBRA. In "Then & Now" Beck pairs a realistically rendered black portrait alongside fragments of abstraction inspired by traditional African masks; the masks being "Then" and the forward face being "Now." This interest in past and present was important for AFRICOBRA in general, and Beck continued to consider this trajectory in later pieces of the "Ancestors" series. This interest in past and present was meant to help find direction for the future; as said by Donaldson in 1970, for the AFRICOBRA I show featuring Sherman Beck, "The images you see here may be placed in three cateories: 1. definition - images that deal with the past. 2. identification - images that relate to the present. 3. direction - images that look into the future. It is our hope that intelligent definition of the past, and perceptive identification in the present will project nationfull [sic] direction in the future - look for us there, because that's where we're at."
MOCA North Miami
AFRICOBRA50, Kavi Gupta Gallery
Chicago Temple Gallery
SELECTED EXHIBITIONS 2018 AFRICOBRA: Messages to the People, MOCA North Miami, Miami FL AFRICOBRA 50, Kavi Gupta Gallery, Chicago, IL 2013 Which Way Our Children…? African American Reflections, Chicago Temple Art Gallery, IL Maleness to Manhood: Reclamation of the Young Black Male, South Side Community Art Center Africobra and Beyond, DuSable Museum of African American History 2011 A Diaspora Rhythm, Elmhurst College, IL 2008 Sherman Beck: Realms & Abstractions, African American Cultural Center, University of Illinois, Chicago 2007 Beautiful Spaces and Places, ETA Gallery, Chicago, IL 2005 Images of the Past: Collection of Artwork from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, South Side Community Art Center, Chicago, IL 1971 Africobra II, Studio Museum in Harlem 1970 Africobra I: Ten in Search of a Nation, Studio Museum in Harlem 1969 Contemporary Black Art, Roosevelt University, IL