Carolyn Lawrence (American, born 1940). Black Children Keep Your Spirits Free, 1972. Acrylic on canvas, 48 1/2 x 50 1/2 x 5 1/4 in. (123 x 128 x 13.5 cm). Courtesy of the artist. Carolyn Mims Lawrence. (Photo: Michael Tropea)
Soul of A Nation: Art In The Age Of Black Power is now on view at the Brooklyn Museum. Organized by Tate Modern in collaboration with Brooklyn Museum and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, the Brooklyn Museum is the only east coast venue for the exhibition. Featuring over 150 works by more than 60 artists, the exhibition gives an encompassing view of the artistic response to the Black Power movement across the United States, displayed in groupings of Black artist collectives in various regions across the States. I have been patiently waiting for this exhibition to arrive at the museum, as the focus is one that is very important to me, specifically the dynamic of Black artists creating works in some of the most challenging times in our society.
Lorraine O’Grady (American, born 1934). Art Is (Girlfriends Times Two), 1983/2009. Chromogenic print, 16 x 20 in. (40.6 x 50.8 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Alexander Gray Associates, New York, NY. 2017 Lorraine O’Grady / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
I had the opportunity to attend the press preview of Soul of A Nation and was elated to see familiar faces in some of my peers. The exhibition begins on the fifth floor and continues down on the fourth floor, with works ranging from photography, sculpture, large scale paintings, textiles, mixed media, audiovisual presentations, writings, and archives from The Black Panther newspaper. I was able to walk through the entire exhibit almost solo at times (which is a big deal for me) to take in every piece of art and the stories behind it. There were many favorites, but as I do not want to spoil it for you, I have compiled a short list of a few of my favorite works in the exhibition.
Elizabeth Catlett (American, 1915-2012). Black Unity, 1968. Mahogany wood, 22 1/2 x 20 1/4 x 12 1/2 in. (57.2 x 51.4 x 31.8 cm). Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. Catlett Mora Family Trust. Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY
Born in Washington, D.C. to parents who were the children of freed slaves, Elizabeth Catlett’s Black Unity, sculpted from mahogany, depicts two conjoined Black faces on the front, and a fist on the back, a central Black Power symbol.
Faith Ringgold (American, born 1930). United States of Attica, 1972. Offset lithograph on paper, 21 3/4 x 27 1/2 in. (55.2 x 69.9 cm). 2018 Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York. 2018 Faith Ringgold, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Born in Harlem, Faith Ringgold is a legendary multi-disciplinarian whose art ranges mediums from paintings, to quilts, to sculpture, to children’s books. An educator first, there are many teachable moments in her works. United States of Attica is a poster made in tribute to the men who died in the prisoners rebellion at Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York, in which the men fought for better living conditions and political rights. Ringgold will be live at the Brooklyn Museum for Brooklyn Talks on September 27th discussing her artistic career. Tickets available here.
Roy DeCarava (American, 1919-2009). Couple Walking, 1979. Gelatin silver print on paper, 11 x 14 in. (27.9 x 35.6 cm). Courtesy of Sherry DeCarava and the DeCarava Archives. 2017 Estate of Roy DeCarava. All Rights Reserved
Roy DeCarava is another Harlem-born artist, whose specialty was black & white fine photography depicting African American life. His early focus was that of jazz musicians, including the likes of Mahalia Jackson and Miles Davis. He was the first African-American photographer to win the Guggenheim Fellowship, and with this win, he was able to photograph his community, as seen in the above photo, Couple Walking. Sherry Turner DeCarava, publisher and art historian will be live at the Brooklyn Museum on November 8th for Brooklyn Talks. She will be discussing and celebrating the new edition of the 1955 best-selling book The Sweet Flypaper of Life, which features words from Langston Hughes, and photos from her late husband, Roy DeCarava. Tickets are available here.
Wadsworth A. Jarrell (American, born 1929). Revolutionary (Angela Davis), 1971. Acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 64 x 51 in. (162.6 x 129.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of R.M. Atwater, Anna Wolfrom Dove, Alice Fiebiger, Joseph Fiebiger, Belle Campbell Harris, and Emma L. Hyde, by exchange, Designated Purchase Fund, Mary Smith Dorward Fund, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, and Carll H. de Silver Fund, 2012.80.18. Wadsworth A. Jarrell. (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)
Born in Albany, GA, Wadsworth A. Jarrell was an instrumental figure in the Black art movement in Chicago. He co-founded AFRICOBRA: African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists in 1969. The collective would become internationally known for their politically-themed art in very vibrant colors. Revolutionary (Angela Davis) is a perfect example of this style, featuring an abstract, color-drenched depiction of Angela Davis composed almost entirely of words and sayings that are powerful to the Black community.
Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power is on view at the Brooklyn Museum September 14, 2018–February 3, 2019 in the Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 4th and 5th Floors.
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