Works from the Exhibition: Soul of A Nation: Black Art in The Era of Black Power in 2018 and 2019 at the Brooklyn Museum, NY
The Tate Modern, London, was the organizing force behind this exhibition to display the works of artists who came of age during and after the introduction of the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965)
Unite! 1971, screenprint on paper. Barbara Jones-Hogu, 1938-2017, American. Private loan to the Brooklyn Museum in 2018/19
The artist co-founded AfriCOBRA and was a member of OBAC. She also involved herself in the Southside Community Center
It has been and is difficult to see most of these works and other works of many of these artists because very few are in the collection of museums or universities. Many of these artists have had mean institutional support. A minority are now nationally prominent.
This exhibition is a review of figurative and conceptual work in painting, mural, collage, prints, sculpture, fabric arts reviewed for their aesthetic innovations;
and also in four geographical areas: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington DC and south.
Revolution in Our Lifetime, 1969, lithograph on paper.
Emory Douglas, American born 1943 whose his title was Minister of Culture, Black Panther Party
Not all the works contain political content. Some artists did not believe in a ‘Black aesthetic’. Some artists painted portraits of their people, widely viewed for the first time in the history of this community.
Narration, representation, exhortation, education, community organization and support of artists.
Backwards and Forwards
The art of minority populations has been overlooked in the great north American art institutions. This is certainly true by varying degrees throughout the country.
There seems to have come a change.
In the past few years, exhibitions have been mounted in New York of major African American artists hardly before seen.
The groundbreaking work of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation is bringing focus on the artistic expression of self-taught African Amercan populations in the deep rural South; and the need for the institutional inclusion of curatorial skills from minority populations.
And the Museum of Modern Art, NY, closing this summer to reopen in expanded quarters in late October 2019 has reviewed its own history. It has decided to widen its definition of modern and contemporary art; to exhibit the work of more women and more artists from minority communities in North American; and artists from across the world. In addition, there will be ground floor galleries which will be free to public view.
Art is a language spoken by many peoples following their own traditions and sparking their own innovations. It is as essential as any other language.
The more voices, the better because we are animals who speak and volubly. No animals need continue to be more equal than others!
Black artists on the South Side of Chicago came together in 1967 to support the political struggle in an organization they named The Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC).
In 1968, with the assassination of Martin Luther King, a number of OBAC artists formed the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA) because they wanted a more direct impact on the liberation movement.
Their aesthetic was one of bright colours for strong impact.
Say It Loud, 1969, acrylic paint on linen, and detail. Gerald Williams, American born 1941. Private loan to Brooklyn Museum in 2018/19
Brothers Surrounding Sis, 1970, acrylic paint on suede. Jae Jarrell, American born 1935. On loan by the artist to Brooklyn Museum in 2018/19
Uhuru, 1971, screenprint on paper, and detail. Nelson Stevens, American born 1938. Private collection on loan to Brooklyn Museum in 2018/19
Liberation Soldiers, 1972, acrylic oil and foil on canvas. Wadsworth Jarrell, American born 1929. Private collection on loan to the Brooklyn Museum in 2018/19
This was shown at the Studio Museum in Harlem in the second AfriCOBRA exhibtion in 1972. Huey Newton is front left and Bobby Seale on the front right.
Black Prince, 1971, acrylic paint on canvas, and details. Wadsworth Jarrell, American born 1971. Private collection on loan to Brooklyn Museum in 2018/2019
Revolutionary, 1972, acrylic paint and mixed media on canvas. Wadsworth Jarrell, American born 1971. Brooklyn Museum, NY in 2018/19
Wives of Sango, 1971, acrylic paint, gold and silver foil on cardboard. Jeff Donaldson, 1932-2004, American. Smithsonian Museum of American Art on loan to Brooklyn Museum in 2018/19
Oshun, Oba and Oya, the three wives of Shango, the Yoruba god of thunder.
The artist was a driving force in the arts community in Chicago and later long-time Howard University professor and dean of its Fine Arts College.
Black Children Keep Your Spirits Free, 1972, acrylic on canvas. Family collection on loan to Brooklyn Museum in 2018/19
Uphold Your Men, 1971, screenprint on paper, and detail. Carolyn Lawrence, American born 1941. Private collection on loan to Brooklyn Museum in 2018/19
The Wall of Respect, an outdoor mural was one of the largest projects of the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC).
The Wall featured prominent Blacks in politics, the entertainment and the sports worlds. The Wall functioned as a meeting place and inspired murals in many communities nationwide.
Among its most successful successors is the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia.
Begun in 1986 by Jane Golden, it has created approximately 3000 murals with communities and grafitti artists and mural artists to commemorate the city’s history, peoples, and communities.
Gentrification and new building inevitably erase some of these murals.
‘Freedom School’, 31st and Gerard, Philadelphia, Parris Stancell, 2002 for the Mural Arts Program, Philadelphia
A remembrance of the African-American intellectual and sociologist, W. E. B. Dubois (1868-1963, American) and his groundbreaking study The Philadelphia Negro, published in 1899. Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, 8th and South, Philadelphia
Building Connections: Walls of Identity, Walls of Pride. Shari Hersh and Elnel Martinez for the Mural Arts Program, 2007, 2nd and Thomspson, Philadelphia
Figuration, Abstraction, Conceptual Art
The Black Community of artists was as taken up as any other by the large battles of the day from the 1970s onwards as to what style of art to use.
With, for most but not all of them, one added layer of complexity: the question of which style best served the purpose of the liberation of their people.
The styles adopted covered the wharf.
Jack Johnson, 1971, oil on canvas and detail.
Raymond Saunders, American born 1934. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
The artist painted both figuratively and in abstraction. He rejected the idea of a Black aesthetic.
Jack Johnson was the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion. Rioting followed his victory in 1910 in which a number of Afro-Americans died at the hands of white mobs. In 1913, an all-white jury convicted Johnson of transporting a white girlfriend across state lines in contravention of a law designed to stop immigrant prostitution. Johnson served 366 days in prison.
The armlessness of this portrait refers to this sorry history of the racism which destroys lives.
Repeated appeals to US presidents for the pardoning of Johnson failed. President Trump finally pardoned him, upon the request of the actor Sylvester Stallone and others, on May 24, 2018.
Untitled, 1978-80. Ed Clark, American born 1926. Brooklyn Museum of Art
Untitled, 2009, synthetic polymer paint on canvas, and details.
Ed Clark, American born 1926. MOMA, NY
This painting was not in the exhibition but has to be among the most luxurious of this artist’s late Abstract Expressionism.
April 4, 1969, acrylic paint on canvas. Sam Gilliam, American born 1934. Smithsonian Museum of American Art on loan to Brooklyn Museum in 2018/19
A Washington-based artist and one of several who stained canvasses in this manner. This was a remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr. one year after his assassination
Untitled #32, 1935-2005, mixed media. Al Loving, 1935-2005, American. Perez Art Museum, Miami on loan to the Brooklyn Museum in 2018/19
LeRoi Jones and His Family, 1964, oil on canvas. Bob Thompson, 1937-1966, American. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC on loan to Brooklyn Museum in 2018/19. Image from the web.
The poet and activist with his first wife, Hettie Jones and their two daughters one year before the assassination of Malcolm X broke up this family and altered all their lives.
Homage to Malcolm, 1970, acrylic on canvas, and details. Jack Whitten, 1939-2018, American. Private loan to Brooklyn Museum in 2018/19
Several colours of paint laid down and combed with a hair comb.
Faith Ringgold, 1977, oil paint on canvas, and detail. Alice Neel, 1900-1984. Private collection on loan to Brooklyn Museum in 2018/19
Texas Louise, 1971, acrylic paint on canvas, and details. Frank Bowling, British born Guyana 1934. Private collection on loan to Brooklyn Museum in 2018/19
The artist was born in Bartica, Guyana before moving to England and then New York. He argued for the widest aesthetic including both representation and abstraction. He himself drew from Colour Field ideas: he poured waves of acrylic paint over stencils of continents before removing them to apply more paint.
Bartica Born, 1968, acrylic paint on canvas, and detail. Frank Bowling, British born Guyana 1934. Private collection on loan to Brooklyn Museum in 2018/19
View of Self, 1978, stain on red cedar and mahogany. Martin Puryear, American born 1941. Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha on loan to Brooklyn Museum in 2018/19.
The sculpture is hollow. The artist said that is meant to visualize the secret self; anyone’s and not of that of someone in particular.
A view of a gallery in the exhibition
Sir Charles, alias Willie Harris, 1972, oil on canvas, and detail. Barkley Hendricks, 1945-2017, American. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
This was not part of this exhibition but it is glorious.
What’s Going On? 1974, oil paint, acrylic paint and acrylic resin paint on canvas, and details.
Barkley Hendricks, 1945-2017, American. Private collection loaned to Brooklyn Museum
The title is taken from Marvin Gaye’s protest song about so much ambient violence both in the United States and also in Vietnam where there was what seemed unending war.
The artist is best known for his elegant portraits. This one is part fictional and part portrait of living people: the woman his long-time model, Adrienne Hawkins, and the young man with glasses his brother.
Brilliantly Endowed (Self-Portrait), 1977, oil and acrylic on canvas. Barkley Hendricks, 1945-2017, American. Private collection loaned to Brooklyn Museum. Photo from the net.
Blood (Donald Formey), 1975, oil and acrylic paint on canvas. Barkley Hendricks, 1945-2017, American. Private collection loaned to Brooklyn Museum in 2018/19
A view of a gallery in the exhibition
Asa’s Palace, 1973, acrylic on canvas, and detail. Jack Whitten, 1939-2018, American. Private collection on loan to Brooklyn Museum, 2018/19
One Nation Under God, 1970, automotive primer paint on engraved aluminium. Timothy Washington, American born 1946. Los Angeles County Museum of Art loaned to the Brooklyn Museum in 2018/19. Image from the web.
Three Spades, 1971, bodyprint and screenprint on paper. David Hammons, American born 1943. Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland on loan to Brooklyn Museum in 2018/19. Image from the web
‘Spade’ is (was) a derogratory word used for Black people. The artist began making body prints in the late 1960s in Los Angeles: he would cover himself in grease and press his body, limbs and face on sheets of paper before covering it with pigmented dust.
Bag Lady in Flight, reconstucted 1990, shopping bags, grease and hair. David Hammons, American born 1943. Eileen Norton Harris Foundation on loan to Brooklyn Museum n 2018/19
Black First, American Second, 1970, bodyprint and screenprint on paper. David Hammons, American born 1943. Image from the web. Private collection on loan to the Brooklyn Museum in 2018/19
Flight Fantasy, early 1980s, records, reeds, string, hair. David Hammons, American born 1943. Private collection on loan to Brooklyn Museum in 2901/19