11.22 by Janel St. John
The influence of Jacob Lawrence is far and wide in the Winter 2022 exhibition season. Lawrence (1917–2000) is among the best-known 20th century African American painters, a distinction shared with Romare Bearden. There are two shows in the DMV featuring his work. Black Orpheus: Jacob Lawrence and the Mbari Club co-curated by Kimberli Gant is at the Chrysler Museum, in Norfolk, VA and Jacob Lawrence and the Children of Hiroshima is at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.
Yet a major exhibition at Maryland’s Baltimore Museum of Art, (BMA) is deeply influenced by Lawrence’s Migration Series, the 60-panel masterpiece he created in 1941. A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration, explores the profound impact of a pivotal time in American history through the works of 12 acclaimed Black contemporary artists. In this nation of immigrants, the ‘migration’ theme emerges, almost annually, in shows featuring artists across ethnicities. But it was Lawrence, the first Black artist to enter the Modern Art canon, who documented the mass exodus of more than 6 million African Americans from the rural South to the industrial North between 1916 and 1970. This Great Migration, which was the largest population shift of Black Americans since slavery, transformed the economic, cultural, social, political, and ecological makeup of the country. It received little media attention until a 23-year old Lawrence created a powerful expression of the human condition and brushed it into worldwide consciousness. The BMA exhibition examines this history through the lens of contemporary life.
Artwork above: Jacob Lawrence (American, 1917–2000), Market Scene, 1966, Gouache on paper, Chrysler Museum of Art, Museum purchase, 2018.22, © 2022 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Lawrence's Migration Series at MoMA in 2015.
JACOB LAWRENCE by Carl Van Vechten, 1964,Transfers from the NEA, Photograph © Van Vechten Trust; Compilation/Publication © Eakins Press Foundation. From 'O, Write My Name': American Portraits, Harlem Heroes (Eakins, 2015) SAAM.
Boy with Kite, a silk-screen from Jacob Lawrence's Hiroshima series. (Phillips Collection/Gift of Nora Lee and Jon Sedmak) from the Phillips Collection current exhibition, Jacob Lawrence
and the Children of Hiroshima.
The perspectives and works of 12 Black contemporary artists, including Mark Bradford, Zoë Charlton, Theaster Gates Jr., and Carrie Mae Weems, are featured in A Movement in Every Direction, now on view at BMA thru January 29, 2023. All of the artists were tapped for new commissions for this presentation that is both communally resonant and deeply personal; each reflected on their own connections to the South, migration, ancestry and land. The result is an extraordinary range of artistic endeavors across media, and a very fitting homage to the phenomenon that gave birth a number of new movements, including the Harlem Renaissance and the Civil Rights Movement.
Robert Pruitt’s A Song for Travelers (above) celebrates individual and Black collective experiences that have shaped history. The figures reference aspects of Black life such as schools, social clubs, and religious spaces that remained and flourished in the South.
Artwork: Robert Pruitt (American, born 1975 Houston, TX) A Song for Travelers, 2022, Charcoal, conté crayon, and pastel on paper mounted on aluminum, 84 x 240 in. Courtesy the artist and Koplin Del Rio Gallery. TGM3
In addition to 'The Lawrence Effect,' four other themes have emerged in the DMV for the Fall '22 season.
Mary Lee Bendolph, (American, born 1960) Blocks and Strips, 2002, wool, cotton, corduroy, NGA, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund and Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, 2020.28.1
Essie Bendolph Pettway, (American, born 1956) Equal Justice, 2020 Color softground etching with aquatint Image Size: 36” x 33”
From Williamsburg, VA to Washington, D.C., self-taught artists are having a moment. There are currently 4 exhibitions featuring works by self-taught artists. Gee's Bend Prints: From Quilts to Prints is on view in the Modlin Center at the University of Richmond; We Are Made of Stories: Self-Taught Artists in the Robson Family Collection is on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) Called to Create: Black Artists of the American South is at the National Gallery of Art (NGA) and "I made this..." The Work of Black American Artists is at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.
The prints at the Modlin Center are inspired by the quilts created by the African American women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama. Collaborating with master printers at Paulson Fontaine Press, the artists used innovative techniques to transfer the quilt design to etchings of the traditional Gee’s Bend quilts. We Are Made of Stories examines the extraordinary lives of 43 artists, through 110 works. The artists’ personal stories give light to the depth and meaning of the artworks they made. The NGA exhibition includes nine Gee’s Bend quilts among other inventive works. For decades, Thornton Dial, James “Son Ford” Thomas, Lonnie Holley, Mary T. Smith, Purvis Young, and many other Black artists in the South worked with little recognition, often using recycled materials as their supplies and yards, porches, or boarded-up storefronts as their galleries. Called to Create exposes the remarkable stories of makers who were ‘called’ to the profession of art making.
For the first time, the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are displaying a wide range of works made exclusively by Black artists from the 18th to the 20th centuries. The exhibition includes nearly 30 paintings, furniture, textiles, decorative sculptures, and more, including new acquisitions. "I made this...:" The Work of Black American Artists and Artisans focuses on the makers and their stories. The title comes from a quote by 19th-century enslaved potter, David Drake (ca. 1801-ca. 1875) who inscribed these words on one of his pots despite laws prohibiting literacy for enslaved people.
(left) Jug by David Drake, Edgefield, South Carolina, 1842. Alkaline-glazed stoneware. Museum Purchase. 2021.900.24.
Kinship. Thelma Golden, Njideka Akunyili Crosby (born 1983)
2013, Acrylic, transfers, and colored pencil on paper
Sheet: 52 x 43 in.
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
© Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Kinship. Connection, Sedrick Huckaby (born 1975) 2020
Oil on canvas on panel, newspaper papier-m.ch. with desk chair on wooden platform, With Base (Sculpture) 47 x 28 x 49 1/2 in.
Courtesy of the artist and Talley Dunn Gallery, Dallas, Texas
© Sedrick Huckaby
Covid left an indelible mark on the world. From empty office spaces, to supply chain kinks, to mental health conversations being normalized, we are no longer who we were pre-2020. But the ways in which we interact – or do not – is the most radical change to everyday life and was recently the topic of a national news story. It is now the focus of two important and timely exhibitions. One looks at the complexities of interpersonal relationships - both within and outside of family units, and the other is focused on the art of dialogue — between art, artists, and the viewer.
Kinship, now on view at the National Portrait Gallery, features the work of eight contemporary artists including Njideka Akunyili Crosby and LaToya Ruby Frazier. The exhibition of more than 40 works – across media - visualizes the complex and deeply moving ways in which interpersonal relationships endure and change. Through the lens of the familial, Kinship is a powerful show that explores numerous themes including inequities afflicting Black communities, the Flint water crisis and violence against Indigenous people.
Telling Our Story: Community Conversations with Our Artists, is on view at the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora at the University of Maryland, College Park. The Center invited art connoisseurs from the community to select works for the show from the museum’s collection. In the spirit of David Driskell and his famous letter writing to artists, the guest curators also wrote letters to the artists of their chosen artworks. In them they expressed historical, personal, or societal significance that led to the selection process. Telling Our Story also features a special tribute to the late Sam Gilliam (1933-2022) with works and archives by and about Gilliam from the center’s permanent collection.
Artwork above: Beasley, Phoebe (b. 1943) Rest Stop, 1979, Oil on canvas
23.50 x 47.50 in. Image courtesy of the David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland, College Park. Gift from the Sandra and Lloyd Baccus Collection, 2012.13.010. © Pheobe Beasley, 2013. Photography by Greg Staley, 2015.
Leontyne Price, Artist: Brian Lanker, Gelatin silver print, 1988
Partial gift of Lynda Lanker and a museum purchase made possible with generous support. from Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker, Agnes Gund, Kate Kelly and George Schweitzer; full list in text.
Iké Udé: Nollywood Portraits.
Alexx Ekubo received Best Actor in a Supporting Role at the Best of Nollywood Awards for The Bling Lagosians. Iké Udé, collection of the artist, 2014-2016
Iké Udé: Nollywood Portraits.
Richard Mofe Damijo is an actor, writer, producer and lawyer, who has starred in more than 70 films. Iké Udé, collection of the artist,
Maya Angelou, Artist: Brian Lanker, Gelatin silver print, 1988
Partial gift of Lynda Lanker and a museum purchase made possible with generous support from Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker, Agnes Gund, Kate Kelly and George Schweitzer; full list in text.
Photographer Iké Udé is retelling the narrative on African beauty, identity and power...one portrait at a time. In Iké Udé: Nollywood Portraits, now on view at the National Museum of African Art, the artist celebrates the luminescent beauty and mystique of the African visionaries of Nollywood, Nigeria’s $3 billion film industry.
Known for his performative and iconoclastic style and vibrant sense of composition, Udé’s photographs use color and attire to make elegant portraits. His photographs make a bold statement about the power of African identities, despite centuries of attempted erasure by Eurocentric art history and notions of beauty. The images speak the rich visual language of classical portraiture, and attest to the social and cultural impact of Nollywood. Of Udé’s 64 Nollywood portraits, 33 are on view at NMAfA through February 2023.
“In 1987, award-winning photographer Brian Lanker launched an ambitious, two-year effort to photograph courageous, groundbreaking Black women whose lives and careers had left an indelible mark on the nation,” said Ann Shumard, senior curator of photographs, National Portrait Gallery (NPG).
Twenty-five of the 75 photographs from Lanker’s series were recently acquired and are now on view at NPG in I Dream a World: Selections from Brian Lanker’s Portraits of Remarkable Black Women. Iconic in American history and culture, these African American women not only transformed politics, arts and activism, they did it with supernatural style, class and grace. Maya Angelou, Shirley Chisholm, Lena Horne, Barbara Jordan, Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, Leontyne Price, Wilma Rudolph and Alice Walker are among the celebrated women featured in the first installation, on view through Jan. 29, 2023.
What's Going On. Glenn Ligon, Mirror #7, 2006, Acrylic, coal dust, screen print, gesso and oil stick on canvas, 84 x 60 in.
Reckoning: Protest. Defiance. Resilience. Breonna Taylor, 2020
On loan from Amy Sherald, © Amy Sherald
In a tumultuous time where democracy and voting rights are ‘on the ballot,’ countries are at war, and a recession looms while diseases linger…art activism will continue to trend. There are currently numerous opportunities to experience the way in which artists respond personally and politically to a changing world. Here’s a few.
What’s Going On is the inaugural exhibition at the brand new Rubell Museum DC. It features more than 190 works by 37 artists who are responding to pressing social and political issues, including, Rashid Johnson, Richard Prince, Sylvia Snowden, Hank Willis Thomas, Mickalene Thomas, Carrie Mae Weems, Kehinde Wiley, among others. The cornerstone is Keith Haring’s Untitled (Against All Odds), 1989; a series of 20 works inspired by Marvin Gaye’s revolutionary lyrics from the 1971 album. Dedicated exclusively to contemporary art, the museum reinvigorates the 1906 building of the former Randall Junior High School, a historically Black public school in Southwest DC that ceased operations in 1978. Free for DC residents, it will serve as a place for the public to engage with the most compelling national and international artists of our time.
Reckoning: Protest. Defiance. Resilience is an ongoing exhibition now on view at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It explores the way in which art depicts Black resistance, resilience, and protest and explores how artists and photographers have used their voice to pay tribute to those we have lost. The newly acquired portrait of Breonna Taylor painted by renowned artist Amy Sherald is on view in the exhibition until May along with 27 newly exhibited images and artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sheila Pree Bright, Bisa Butler, Shaun Leonardo, David Hammons, and many more.
The Radical Voice of Blackness. Tawny Chatmon, Remnants/Peace and Joy are the Birthright of All Beings, 2021-2022
24k gold leaf, paper, and acrylic on archival pigment print, 54 x 34.
Let Them Kids Be Kids.
Lex Marie, If They Swing, Swing Back, 2022 Oil, oil stick, paper, socks on canvas 48 x 36 in.
The Radical Voice of Blackness Speaks of Resistance and Joy, is now on view at the Banneker-Douglass Museum. Guest curated by Myrtis Bedolla of Galerie Myrtis, the show features multidisciplinary works of art by 17 cross-generational Black Maryland-based artists, commissioned portraits, and works from the Museum Fine Art Collection.
Devin Allen, Tawny Chatmon, Wesley Clark, Larry Cook, Oletha DeVane, Edward D. Ghee, Sr., Phylicia Ghee, Jerrell Gibbs and Curlee Holton, are among the featured artists. Across a confluence of artistic practices, they examine historic and contemporary themes of Black joy and healing created in opposition to and despite oppression.
Lex Marie: Let Them Kids Be Kids is now on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington. Marie is a DC-area artist who uses the playground as a framework to examine the joys of Black childhood and the ways in which issues of race and equity are inscribed on the site. Employing images from her personal life to examine these ideas, Marie’s newest paintings and installations address the issue of adultification bias as she makes the case that all children have a right to innocence.
For years, she has used personal objects and photographs to inspire her compositions. For this show, Marie allows viewers to witness scenes of her son Aiden playing from infancy to the present day, in some moments beaming giddily, in other gazing pensively while on a tricycle or a swing set.
Experience the visuals, sound, and emotion in a large-scale video installation created by Jamaican-born artist Ebony Patterson.
The artist has created a visually arresting work, exposing the continued vulnerability of Black bodies in our present society.
Lessons of the Hour—Frederick Douglass (2019) is an immersive and poetic meditation on the great 19th-century abolitionist London-born artist and filmmaker Sir Isaac Julien. The 10-screen film installation collapses time and space to bridge persistent historical and contemporary challenges of the day.
Howardena Pindell made her influential video Free, White and 21 (1980) following a car accident in 1979 that left her with partial memory loss. In the video, she recounts her personal experiences of racism as an African American woman in America.
John Akomfra: PURPLE at the Hirshhorn Museum, Introduces the artist’s largest video installation, an immersive six-channel work, to D.C. for the first time. Purple (2017) weaves together original film with archival footage against a hypnotic score to address themes related to climate change.
GLASS CEILING BREAKER, the shattered glass portrait of Vice President Kamala Harris by Swiss artist Simon Berger, has been installed at DC's Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. It will be the center point of a Black feminism exhibit coming to the library in March.
Travel with us Charleston, SC for the much-anticipated opening of IAAM, JANUARY 20-23, 2023.