Lusenhop Fine Art, on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights, opens with works of Dawoud Bey

Photographs by Dawoud Bey, installation view courtesy of Lusenhop Fine Art.

David Lusenhop’s celebrated career as an independent scholar and collector of African American art spans several decades, and includes sales to dozens of American museums, including several transactions–by sale as well as donation–to the Cleveland Museum of Art. He describes himself merely as “a conduit.” But he is so much more. He recently opened Lusenhop Fine Art, a quaint storefront gallery in a commercial and residential district of Cleveland Heights. Upon entering, the viewer is greeted by a variety of gelatin silver prints drawn from volumes of work by the world renowned photographer, educator and MacArthur Fellow Dawoud Bey–namely oversized, provocative pieces from Night Coming Tenderly, Black; and from the series Harlem, U.S.A., and Street Portraits.

I asked David about his motivation to collect African American Art and what fuels his passion. He replied, “Art expresses culture,” and then fondly quoted his friend, AfriCOBRA co-founder Jeff Donaldson, who stated ”All art is political.” He then took me back to the beginning.

Born in 1963 in Cincinnati Ohio, David Lusenhop grew up with the rhetoric of the day, in a time of nation-wide upheaval amid the Civil Rights Movement. David credits two of his mentors, who were both African American Studio Arts teachers at his high school, for sparking his interest in the subject. He spoke of attending interracial schools, and of the bully that motivated him to seek refuge in the school’s library, as he thanked librarians for their contributions to the preservation of history. He credits them for bringing him to his lovely wife, a librarian, and he references the library as the, “Window to the world!”

Photographs by Dawoud Bey, installation view courtesy of Lusenhop Fine Art.

David got this first job in a gallery in 1983. By 1989 he opened his own first gallery. His interests include the quality of the materials and techniques in which the objects are created. He is careful to not interject himself into the works, stating that, “the medium is as important as the work.” He has traveled far and wide collecting master works to sell to galleries, other private collectors, and museums, including the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Of his current collection of works on view, he says “Dawoud knows the science of optics and lighting and angles.” He smiled as he quoted Bey’s assertion. “I can photograph black skin like no one else!” David stated that he wanted to capture a piece of American history that was under-represented. His private collection takes African American art as its central focus. He says his clients seek respectable, and dignified portrayals of the African American experience: “Self representation is the central tenet of the whole enterprise.” David fondly recalls many of his encounters, including having provided pieces for the Senate office of former President Barack Obama, and his interactions with Vice President Kamala Harris whom he says received Black Panther Party publications to her home as a child.

Graciously, David and his wife spent almost two hours enlightening me on the high- end African American Artists and Art within our own community. I learned more than I could have imagined about their dedication to this work. He generously gifted me a sealed copy of The Soul of a Nation Reader; Writings by and about Black American Artists, 1960-1980, noting that his favorite period of Art was produced between 1965 and 1975. David proudly credits many African American scholars and mentors that have shaped his career thus far.

Lusenhop’s upcoming exhibition will feature a sampling of prints by African American artist Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012), whose work will be the subject of a traveling museum retrospective beginning in the fall of 2024.

Lusenhop Fine Art

2248 Lee Road

Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118

The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.

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