Born in New York City, Amir Bey is a mixed media sculptor whose early work was influenced by his life in the mountains of Northern California at Black Bear Ranch , where he began to experiment with tactile surfaces carving in wood, stone, and leather.
Returning to New York in the late 1970s, he was introduced to woodcuts, and silkscreen prints on paper and fabric. In the 80s he began to cast in plaster, cement, and bronze; used the etched surfaces of copper foil, and aluminum with original effects; and in these media he continued to explore textures and oxidizing processes.
Indoor and outdoor installations led to his work as a curator for over 100 exhibitions and performances.
He was curator at Bronx River Art Center and Gallery from 1989 – 99.
A permanent installation, Procession of Folk #3, comprised of 12 faceted glass windows, was commissioned by the MTA in 2003, which was completed in 2006.
He has exhibited in Japan, Turkey, Germany, Spain, and Martinique, and returned to Japan, the country he has exhibited most frequently outside of the US, for an exhibit of his work in Tottori in 2012. He will return to Japan for a series of performances and showing his sculpture in inspired by the honeybee and an astrological installation of mobiles representing the planets.
Aside from work as a visual artist, Amir Bey has been a radio program producer, creating and broadcasting shows for KPFA-FM in Berkeley, CA 1972-75, KPOO in San Francisco, and free lance work at WBAI-FM New York.
A professional astrologer since 1971 who has worked on thousands of charts, and has written and published articles on the topic, such as The Astrology of Malcolm X, which was published by American Astrology, and Eclipses Are Important, featured in The Amsterdam News.
The Equinox Celebration Tarot, whose images are photographs of his bronze sculptures, may be the only deck derived from sculpture, and not drawings or collage. His studies have also included Egyptology, and he has contributed many articles on the archeo-cosmology of the ancient Egyptians: Eclipses over Egypt and The Ancient Egyptian Foundations of Western Astrology, and he has conducted discussions on ancient Egyptian Cosmology for Egyptology and astrology organizations.
Bey has written editorials, interviews, and satire on a variety of topics.
His critique of Manning Marable’s recent book on Malcolm X appears in a compilation of commentaries on it by writers, By Any Means Necessary: Malcolm X Not Re-invented, published by Third World Press, 2012.
Much of my work involves the face.
The face’s universality makes it an artistic vehicle that can express every emotion, as it projects and protects identity.
I create masks of etched copper foil, acrylic on canvas and aluminum screen mesh, life casts, and carvings that are combined in installations with silkscreen on fabric that are also used in performances. Any material, media, color combinations, and sites offer limitless possibilities. Two favorites are mobiles of etched copper foil faces that give an iridescent intrigue, and fabrics that have been silkscreened, then twisted and hung, creating surprising designs and costumes.
Musical instruments made of these mobile masks (called “Music Masks”) are hung from ceilings along with the printed fabrics respond to wind currents, causing attached bells to ring. Color, sound, texture and movement are woven into my installations.
Much of this concept comes to life in my collaborations with performers, such as the ensemble work of SYNERGY Sight and Sound, a collaborative project with the alto saxophonist and composer, Saco Yasuma, appearing in Vision Festival XII (2007), Vision Collaborative Nights (2009), and Vision Festival XV (2010), and Vision Festival XX (2015).
My most recent collaborations have been with JD Parran, titled Elevated Moon in 2014, and Tayuta, a Japanese duo, Masa and Hirono, whose music combines the sounds of Ghana and Japanese. Tayuta also uses my masks in their performances in their international tours. I will perform with them in Japan during August of 2016, creating mobiles representing planets that will be installed in trees.
Moyo Roho – Precursor to the Equinox Celebration Tarot
MOYO ROHO, Kiswahili for “Heart/Passion Spirit” 28”x12” Nigerian ebony, with brass, African Wonderstone, and deer antler necklace. It was carved April – August of 1976, beginning from Berkeley, CA, where I lived at the time, to New York City and back again. I realized many years later that in the evolution of my work there are elements that did not exist before Moyo Roho, and that the Equinox Celebration Celebrants certainly follow him.
I began the Celebration in early fall, 1976, not long after Moyo Roho was finished. Some of them, Power of Woman, Spirit of Joy, La Danseuse, have his raised hands and arms (Shout!), in a direct almost confrontational manner. I began carving many of the Celebrants by creating a space between the legs or at the bottom of a figure similar to Moyo Roho’s; they were all carved from a flat, rectangular stone, with Moyo Roho originating from a more elongated rectangle. Some Celebrants of the tarot have contrasting directions between the arms and legs, and the head and the space between the legs. As with much of my work, the face is central, and the body of Moyo Roho is comprised of many faces! Likewise, the Celebrant faces are meant to communicate energies and ideas to conjure deities, or mythic figures. The two at Moyo Roho’s bottom that form the legs are ancestral. The face to the viewer’s left combines African and Asian concepts – when Moyo Roho was carved, the San Francisco Bay Area had significant interactions and absorptions between the descendants of those continents, such as social activism, martial arts, and spirituality. The figure on the right, an early version of General Funkeshoe, has humor. The brass heads in Moyo Roho’s hands are sources of power. The necklace, which I would sometimes wear for support, was made of deer antler from Black Bear Ranch in Siskiyou County, CA where I used to live. Sadly, the clasp became weak and I lost it one winter night. The figure inside his head is a female spirit with a heart carved underneath her face, symbolizing love. She was added soon after Moyo Roho’s completion. Originally there was only the open space, for the mystery of his being. However, during the time I was finishing Moyo Roho, a five-year-old neighbor would come by to hear my tape of Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got that Swing).” He would put her there each time he visited, and finally there it stayed!
Moyo Roho became my personal icon and when I returned to the East Coast from California in 1977, he introduced me to new people of like minds, while disturbing those of antipathetic persuasions. He was first shown in New York City at Cinque Gallery in 1978, and at Kenkeleba House in 1980.
For several decades I thought about making a symbol for astrology and astrologers. Many philosophies and religions have a symbol: The Cross for Christianity, The Wheel for Buddhism, The Star of David for Judaism, The Star and Crescent for Islam, and Shinto has the Torii Gate to name some.
The Astrologo combines many aspects of the Earth/Sky relationship: The circle in the center is the Sun and the Earth; there are two crescents on each side of the Sun/Earth, representing the phases of the Moon: the waxing Moon is the crescent on the right, the waning Moon is the crescent on the left. There are other representations that show the Equator, the 23 degree axial tilt of the Earth, the twelve signs, the North and South Poles, the 24 hours of the day, and the Solstices.
As with many ideograms, there are other representations: An eye; planetary orbits; wings; and magnetic rays surrounding the Earth. In the galvanized metal the many stars in a galaxy can be found in the textures.