Images courtesy of The George Gallery

Building Blocks

South Carolina artist Raishad Glover threw everything and the kitchen sink at his latest exhibit — but George Gallery guests might not realize it on initial inspection.

Retro Cube Series seems easy to dissect at first glance: Each painting is a cube with a unique gradient stripe over it, with part of the shape’s exterior peeled away. But the more you look, the more there is to analyze.

“These cubes act as a foundation, building blocks for family and community,” Glover said about the exhibit. “They work inside of each other, and then, you have the space around you that plays upon that. That black space around it — who knows? That could be another cube inside of a cube.”

Raishad Glover said his new series is carefully crafted with much in mind

The artist’s use of negative space, visible brush strokes on the background and strips of color going through the white cubes imbue the sense of purpose and movement. 

Femininity is a prevailing theme throughout the series, according to Glover. Beeswax, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the queen bee, was used to create the cubes, while the exterior border of the shape resembles a honeycomb. 

“I think it adds a certain type of texture to it, another layer of texture,” he said. “Beeswax also has an iridescent look on it. It’s supposed to represent the idea of human tissue in a way.”

On each cube, a missing portion of that outer layer reveals a series of smaller cubes within. Skin is a motif for some of Glover’s work; one piece at the George Gallery is an image of a skin cell, turned gray. According to the artist, this plays on identity and race “in an optimistic way” by turning the skin cell to a neutral color.

The latest exhibit was crafted with some eclectic materials, including hemp board, watercolors and graphite. Glover’s background in mixed mediums helped inform how these paintings came together. “I like to dip into a little bit of all types of styles from black boxes to photography to lenticular to painting to performance art sometimes,” he said. “But, I like to look at it through the lens of paint.”

Although the paintings’ color palettes seem simple at first — a black background, white cube and a few slashes of color — Glover chose everything carefully. “I usually base [the strip of color] on color theory, principals, elements of design,” he said. “I play with those intuitively … I’m a big fan of grayscale, but when you add color to it, you advance upon the story, and it gets more personal.”

Glover compared his works to sculptures because of the varied use of materials, instead of typical paint and canvas. Each started off as a sketch before he expanded on and edited them through computer software. After that, the construction would begin. 

Glover, who holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale and teaches at Claflin University in Orangeburg, said themes of family and community are often present in his work. The feminine perspective in Retro Cube Series was inspired by Glover’s mother, he said, while the repetition of the cubes is a nod to his triplet siblings.

Retro Cube Series is one of Glover’s first forays into op art, images that use optical illusions, and he believes it will influence his future work. “I’m working on a new series,” he said. “I’m still playing with different types of styles and concepts, but right now, I’m going to stick with the cube paintings for a while.”