• Click on image to enlarge

    Photo: William Arnett, 1997

Howell admits sometimes encountering a genuine quandary, such as deciding what color to paint some wooden pumpkins he has made for Halloween decor: “I had a heap of trouble with them pumpkins. Man, a pumpkin ain’t yellow and it ain’t orange and it ain’t pink. It’s a damn strange-colored sucker. But, man, I told you I study stuff, and I made me a color after ‘while that suited them pumpkins.”

Pumpkins are naturally strange fruits, but Howell’s pumpkins are beyond pumpkin strange. His are seemingly too plump, too chiseled, and too colorful, as if Howell were testing the theoretical limits of the truism that art must be greater than the sum of its parts. Can there be an “art” part when the volume is already turned up to its highest for every aspect of the craft (line, color, mass, texture)? Too much, of everything or of anything, is usually aesthetically counterproductive; however, Howell’s rococo rawness, his flip funk, is not far off the ritualized competitions of black American life: school children playing the dozens, break dancers calling out each other to ever more impressively athletic moves. Howell’s pieces are entrants in a slam-dunk contest.