Roy DeCarava, Lingerie, New York, 1950/printed 1981, gelatin silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible by Henry L. Milmore, © 1981 Roy DeCarava.
Jacob Lawrence, Bar and Grill, 1941, gouache, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Henry Ward Ranger through the National Academy of Design purchase through the Catherine Walden Myer Fund and the Director’s Discretionary Fund.
Benny Andrews, Portrait of Black Madonna, 1987, oil and collage on canvas, Smithsonian American Art
Museum, Gift of the Andrews Humphrey Family Foundation, © Estate of Benny Andrews/Licensed by
VAGA, New York, NY.
Richard Hunt, “The greatest obstacle to being heroic is the doubt whether one may not be going to prove one’s self a fool; the truest heroism, is to resist the doubt; and the profoundest wisdom, to know when it ought to be resisted, and when to be obeyed.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance, 1852. From the series Great Ideas,1975, chromed and welded steel, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Container Corporation of America.
Robert McNeill, Make A Wish (Bronx Slave Market, 170th Street, New York), 1938, gelatin silver, Smithsonian American Art Museum, © 1938 Robert McNeill.
Norman Lewis, Evening Rendezvous, 1962, oil, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase, purchase made possible by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment and the Smithsonian.
Beauford Delaney, Can Fire in the Park, 1946, Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Thornton Dial, Sr., Top of the Line (Steel), 1992, mixed media: enamel, unbraided canvas roping, and metal, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift from the collection of Ron and June Shelp.
Sargent Johnson, Mask, 1930-1935, copper on wood, base, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of International Business Machines Corporation.
Allan Rohan Crite, School's Out, 1936, oil, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from The Museum of Modern Art.
William H. Johnson, Sowing, 1940, oil, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation.
Keith Morrison, Zombie Jamboree, 1988, oil, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Catherine Walden Myer Fund and the Director’s Discretionary Fund.
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Eighth and F streets N.W.
African American Art:
Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era
April 27-September 3, 2012
African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era and Beyond presents a selection of works by 43 black artists who lived through the tremendous changes of the 20th century. In paintings, sculpture, prints and photographs, the featured artists embrace themes both universal and specific to the African American experience, including the exploration of identity, the struggle for equality, the power of music and the beauties and hardships of life in rural and urban America.
The exhibition is organized by Virginia Mecklenburg, senior curator of painting and sculpture at the museum. It will travel to additional venues through 2014 following its presentation in Washington, D.C.
“This exhibition allows us to understand profound change through the eyes of artists,” said Elizabeth Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “These works by African American artists are vital to understanding the complex American experience.”
The 100 works on view are drawn entirely from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s rich collection of African American art, the largest and finest in the United States. More than half of the works featured are being exhibited by the museum for the first time, including paintings by Benny Andrews, Loïs Mailou Jones and Jacob Lawrence, as well as photographs by Roy DeCarava, Gordon Parks and Marilyn Nance. Ten of the artworks were acquired within the past five years. More than half of the objects in the exhibition are photographs from the museum’s permanent collection. Individual object labels connect the artworks with the artistic and social factors that shaped their creation.
The 20th century was a time of great change in America. Many of the social, political and cultural movements that came to define the era, such as the jazz age, the Harlem Renaissance and the civil rights movement, were rooted in African American communities. Black artists explored their identity in this quickly changing world through a variety of media and in styles as varied as postmodernism, documentary realism, expressionism and abstraction.
“Visitors will be struck not only by the power of these artworks, but also by the variety of the pieces on display,” said Mecklenburg. “So many new movements and styles grew out of the tumult of the 20th century, and these works reflect that diversity.”
In paintings, prints and sculpture, artists such as William H. Johnson and Andrews speak to the dignity and resilience of those who work the land. Romare Bearden recasts Christian themes in terms of the black experience. Jones, Sargent Johnson and Melvin Edwards address African heritage, while Alma Thomas explores the beauty of the natural world through color and abstract forms.
Studio portraits by James VanDerZee document the rise of the black middle class in the 1920s, while powerful black-and-white photographs by DeCarava, Nance, Parks, Robert McNeill, Roland Freeman and Tony Gleaton chronicle everyday life from the 1930s through the final decades of the 20th century.
“Each of the artists included in this exhibition made a compelling contribution to the artistic landscape of 20th century America, and we are delighted to feature their work in the museum’s galleries,” said Mecklenburg.
Publication The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalog, with an essay written by distinguished scholar Richard J. Powell, the John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art and Art History at Duke University. The book also includes entries about each artist by Mecklenburg; Theresa Slowik, chief of publications at the Smithsonian American Art Museum; and Battle. The catalog, co-published by the museum with Skira Rizzoli in New York, will be available for purchase ($60 hardcover, $40 softcover) in the museum store and at bookstores nationwide. The catalog also will be available for purchase in e-book form through the museum store. Visit the museum website for additional purchase locations.
Sam Gilliam, The Petition, 1990, mixed media, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the James F. Dicke Family, © 1990 Sam Gilliam.
Robert McNeill, New Car (South Richmond, Virginia), from the project The Negro in Virginia, 1938, gelatin silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, © 1938 Robert McNeill.
Malvin Gray Johnson, Self-Portrait, 1934, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation.
Felrath Hines, Red Stripe with Green Background, oil, Smithsonian American Art Museum, © 1986 Dorothy C Fisher.
James A. Porter, Still Life with Peonies, 1949, oil, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment and the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program.
Melvin Edwards, Tambo, 1993, welded steel, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment and the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program © 1993 Melvin Edwards.
Loïs Mailou Jones, Moon Masque, 1971, oil and collage, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of the artist.
Frederick Brown, John Henry, 1979, oil, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Gerald L. Pearson, © 1979 Frederick J. Brown.
Gordon Parks, Fort Scott, Kansas, 1950, gelatin silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, © 1950 Gordon Parks.
John Scott, Thornbush Blues Totem, 1990, painted steel, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase.