Danny Simmons

Born 1953.
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Danny Simmons Biography

Danny Simmons has described his painterly style as “Neo-African Abstract Expressionism”—a term which, he acknowledges, captures the aesthetic of his work without fully describing its spiritual intent. He elaborates: “Throughout my career, I’ve been looking to capture…the power of spirit within the lines and markings I put on canvas and paper.” Heavily influenced by African art and sculpture, Simmons’ dynamic, vividly colored compositions aim to channel the spiritual roots of these traditional art forms into painted abstractions.

Simmons was born in 1953 in Queens, New York. He grew up in an artistic household that valued education and individuality—his father was a truant officer and Black history professor who also wrote poetry, and his mother was a teacher and painter. Earning his Bachelor’s in social work from New York University, Simmons initially worked for the city’s Bureau of Child Support before leaving to pursue an artistic career. While he took early inspiration from Salvador Dalí and Cuban artist Wilfredo Lam, Simmons arrived at his mature style with the discovery of a signature motif: the dot. “It released me from figures,” he recalled. “When dotting in a pattern, it said Africa; it said roots; it said connection.”

In addition to his practice as a visual artist, Simmons is a published author and poet and a dedicated philanthropist. He is the Chairman of the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, which he founded in 1995 alongside his brothers, hip hop mogul Russell Simmons and rapper Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons. The foundation provides underserved youth with arts access and education, and supports the work of emerging artists through its Rush Arts Gallery in Philadelphia. In 2004, Simmons published the acclaimed Three Days as the Crow Flies, a fictionalized account of the 1980s downtown art scene, and in 2007, he debuted his first collection of poetry, I Dreamed My People Were Calling But I Couldn’t Find My Way Home. His love for poetry was also the inspiration behind the hit HBO show Def Poetry Jam and its Broadway adaptation, for which Simmons won a Tony Award.

Simmons’ artwork has been exhibited at institutions including the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.; Brooklyn Museum and Brooklyn Academy of Music in Brooklyn, NY; and the United Nations, Chase Manhattan Bank, Deutsche Bank and Schomburg Center for Black Culture in New York. Simmons holds a Master’s in public finance and an honorary doctorate from Long Island University. He currently lives and works in Philadelphia, PA.

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