Friday, July 8, 2016

Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2016 Exhibition

Paul D'Ámato, Riverside, Illinois, Inkjet print, 2013. Collection of the artist, courtesy of Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago, IL. (Margaret and Marquetta Tisdell, Original Providence Baptist Church.)

Are you familiar with the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition (OBPC) at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery (NPG)? I recently visited the 2016 exhibition which was the result of this competition at the National Portrait Gallery. The OBPC exhibition will be on view through January 8, 2017. As background, The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is currently scheduled as a triennial event, and since its inaugural competition in 2006, the 2016 exhibition represents its fourth iteration. 

"The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition was made possible by benefactor Virginia Outwin Boochever (1920–2005), a former Portrait Gallery docent who volunteered at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery for 19 years. Boochever also shared the museum’s increasing interest in the important role that contemporary portraiture could play in the life of the gallery, as well as in heralding the museum’s engagement with figurative art and portraiture in today’s world."(NPG Blog, October 1, 2015) 

Finalists of the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition (not all are pictured). Image: National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery invited artists from all over America to investigate the art of contemporary portraiture for its fourth Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. The 43 finalists, selected from over 2,500 entrants, have their work shown in the exhibition, The Outwin 2016: American Portraiture Today. "The artists selected represent excellence in the art of portraiture. They also tackle some of the most pressing topics in the political and cultural realms, including investigations of race and gender, the fragility of childhood in our increasingly complicated world, and the psychological impact of migration."    The winner, Amy Sherald of Baltimore, Maryland, received a grand prize of $25,000 for her painting, "Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance)."

Amy Sherald, Baltimore, MD., Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance).Oil on canvas, 2013, Frances and Burton Reifler. 
 "Sherald creates innovative, dynamic portraits that, through color and form, confront the psychological effects of stereotypical imagery on African American subjects. ...Using light gray paint, Sherald  'emits' skin color so her subjects appear both realistic and otherworldly." (excerpts from museum wall text)

Exploring the depth and breadth of the selections in this exhibition, portraiture has been loosely and creatively interpreted. Read about some of the finalists.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Kerry James Marshall: Artist Talk


White is the privileged position to occupy     Set about to be an old master

Black subject...was always at the margin, always peripheral to the central narrative to the story

Conscious decision not to paint white people

Maximum amount of power resides in the extreme blackness of figures 

Knowledge and Skills          Know how things work

Take charge of what you want in the world

Monday, April 11, 2016

RESULTS: Swann's African-American Fine Art Sale 2409

The most recent Swann Auction Galleries' African-American Fine Art Sale was held on April 7, 2016. Sale 2409 brought in $1,831,747 with buyer’s premium, exceeding its pre-sale low estimate of $1,333,000 by nearly $500,000. Of the 121 lots that were offered at auction, 99 sold (81% sell-through rate by lot). According to Nigel Freeman, Swann Galleries’ Director of African-American Fine Art, “This sale continued to build on many of our department’s strengths. Burgeoning interest in post-war abstraction continues to rise, with record prices for Frank Bowling and Felrath Hines, as well as high prices for works by Norman Lewis and Sam Gilliam. This sale we saw success for works on paper by Norman Lewis: Untitled (Processional Figure Composition) set a record for a work on paper by the artist, and several other lots eclipsed their high estimates.”

Select highlights from Swann's African-American Fine Art Sale 2409 are featured in this post, focusing on a selection of the top selling lots in the auction. All price quotes for art sold include buyer's premium.

Lot 94    Faith Ringgold (1930 - )
Double Dutch on the Golden Gate Bridge

Acrylic on canvas and painted, dye and pieced fabric, 1988; 68½" x 68¼". From the 1988 Woman On A Bridge Series.

Image: Swann Galleries

Double Dutch on the Golden Gate Bridge is a joyous and fantastic image of young girls playing together in this popular jumping rope game. They float elevated above the iconic bridge with the facades of brownstones of the city of San Francisco. This lot had a pre-sale estimate of $150,000 - 250,000; it surpassed its low estimate, and was acquired by a collector for $209,000. 

Lot 18  Norman Lewis (1909 - 1979)  

Oil on masonite board, 1947; 17¾"x 14¾". Signed and dated in oil, lower right. Image: Swann Galleries

This beautiful oil reveals the range of Norman Lewis' early experimentation within the abstract idiom in the late 1940s. In 1947 Norman Lewis did a series of these small abstract paintings on board. Two other paintings from this series - Florence and Shapes - were included in the exhibition From the Margins: Lee Krasner / Norman Lewis, 1945 - 1952 at the Jewish Museum. Lot 18, Untitled, had a pre-sale estimate of $60,000 - 90,000; this piece surpassed its high estimate, selling to a dealer for $149,000.  

Lot 38  Hughie Lee-Smith (1915 - 1999)
Untitled (Young Man in a Slum).

Oil on linen canvas, circa 1960; 26"x 36". Signed in oil, lower right. Image: Swann Galleries

This striking and large canvas is a wonderful example of Hughie Lee-Smith's mid-career painting. It appears very closely related to his Slum Lad, circa 1960, in the collection of the Flint Institute of Arts. This painting depicts the same young man a in long-sleeved white shirt, and the same background of crumbling urban decay. Here the figure has turned and is walking away from the viewer - while in Slum Lad he is facing the viewer. Young Man in a Slum, lot 38, sold to a collector for $106,250; it exceeded its pre-sale estimate of  $40,000 - 60,000.

Lot 84  Sam Gilliam (1933 - )
Rondo IX.

Acrylic and canvas collage on cotton canvas, 1983; 44" x 60" with beveled edges. Signed, titled and dated in acrylic, center verso. Image: Swann Galleries
This large painting is an excellent example of Sam Gilliam's Rondo series, a breakthrough new series of paintings in the early 1980s. Thirteen panels from this series were hung together in the rotunda of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in his 1983 solo exhibition Modern Painters at the Corcoran: Sam Gilliam. Rondo IX had an estimate of $50,000 - 75,000; it sold to a dealer for $93,750. 

Lot 32     Norman Lewis (1909 - 1979)
Untitled (Processional Figure Composition).

Oil, pen and ink on cream wove paper, 1956; 26" x 40" inches. Signed and dated "June, 1956" in ink, lower left. Image: Swann Galleries
This complex and expressive work on paper is a superb example of Norman Lewis' evolving calligraphy of "little figures" in the mid-1950s. Lot 32, an untitled piece, had an estimate of $40,000 - 60,000; it sold to a dealer for $87,500, which was a record for a work on paper for Norman Lewis.

Lot 87   Frank Bowling (1936 - )
Irv Sandler's Visit.

Acrylic on cotton canvas, 1977; 46½" x 28". The artist's name spray-painted with stencil, lower left verso. Titled, inscribed and dated "27 Aug. 1977" in purple ink, upper right and lower left verso. Image: Swann Galleries
This richly colored and sumptuous abstraction by Frank Bowling is the first canvas from his 1970s series of "poured paintings" to come to auction. Beginning in New York in 1973, the artist used a tilting board platform to controlled the flow and descent of the acrylic paint vertically down the canvas. This lot sold to a collector for $81,250; it had an estimate of $35,000 - 50,000. In this sale, lot 87 was an auction record for Frank Bowling.

Lot 17   Norman Lewis (1909 - 1979)
Untitled (Figurative Abstraction).

Oil on linen canvas, 1945; 28"x 17". Signed and dated in oil, lower left. Image: Swann Galleries
 This intriguing, modernist composition is the earliest abstract painting by Norman Lewis to come to auction. 1945 is the first full year of his foray into abstraction, and his oil paintings from that year are very scarce. Norman Lewis was painting linear figurations with diagonals and curves, bisecting vertical lines and grids - abstracting figures in the city. Figurative Abstraction had an estimate of $75,000 - 100,000, and it sold to a dealer for $75,000.

Live online bidding was available via Thanks to Swann Galleries for the use of images and written material in the catalogue. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Upcoming Art Talks, Symposiums: Spring/Summer 2016

 Atlanta, Georgia 
High Museum of Art
Talk: Franklin Sirmans

On Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 7:00 pm Franklin Sirmans, director of Pérez Art Museum Miami, will discuss celebrated artist Jean-Michel Basquiat's focus on the psychological and spiritual terrain of the American South, the subject of his 2014 book.

Baltimore, Maryland
Galerie Myrtis
Talk: The Intelligent Collector
Untitled, Lois Mailou Jones (1905‐1998), Oil on Canvas, 24” x 20” framed, Ruth and Sam Williams Collection
This gallery talk, The Intelligent Collector, will be presented by Myrtis Bedolla on Sunday, April 17, 2016 from 4:00 - 6:00 pm. Myrtis Bedolla, art adviser and curator, will demystify the collecting process and offer insider tips on building a collection that is culturally rich, aesthetically beautiful and financially rewarding.

The gallery talk is one of the opening events accompanying the upcoming exhibition, Art of the Collectors V, which is on view April 17 - June 11, 2016. Art of the Collectors V explores the role of the collector in preserving culture and building legacy through art collecting and giving. Featured are works created by prominent and lesser known artists, along with African art.  Offerings include rare paintings, original prints, photographs and sculptures held in private hands for generations, and important works of art from institution holdings.

Bloomfield Hills, Michigan 
 Cranbrook Art Museum
Talk: Valerie Cassel Oliver,
Radical Presence: Black Artists and Contemporary Art

Photo by Eric Hester
Valerie Cassel Oliver, Senior Curator Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, will present an overview of her curatorial practice over the last decade. The presentation will highlight a series of exhibitions that have made visible the presence and impact of black artists working in a variety of media from abstract painting to film and video to performance art and beyond. Radical Presence: Black Artists and Contemporary Art is scheduled for Monday, May 2, 2016 at 6:00 pm at Cranbrook Art Museum. 

Charlottesville, Virginia
The Paramount Theater
Artist Talk: Sheila Pree Bright: 1960Now

Image © Sheila Pree Bright

This Artist Talk:  Sheila Pree Bright: 1960Now will be held at the Paramount Theater at 215 West Main Street on Saturday, June 18, 2016 from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. Bright’s current and most ambitious project to date, 1960Now, examines race, gender and generational divides, to raise awareness of millennial perspectives on civil and human rights. 1960Now is a photographic portrait series of emerging young leaders affiliated with the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Chicago, Illinois
Art Institute of Chicago
            Talk: A Matter of Public Health-Black Doctors and 
Free Clinics in the Art of Jacob Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence, Free Clinic, 1938. H Karl and Nancy von Maltitz Endowment.
This lecture is a part of the American Art Up Close lecture series at the Art Institute of Chicago; it will be held on Thursday,  May 26, 2016 from 6:00 - 7:00 pm. Tanya Sheehan, Colby College, will address public health and medical care in urban America as depicted in modernist Jacob Lawrence’s art from the 1930s to the 1950s.

Art Institute of Chicago
 Talk: Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem

Exhibition curator Michal Raz-Russo provides a behind-the-scenes look at the process of uncovering work from Parks and Ellison’s collaborations. This lecture will be held in Fullerton Hall on Thursday, June 30, 2016 from 6:00 - 7:30 pm.

Dallas, Texas
Valley House Gallery and Sculpture Garden
Artist Talk: Sedrick Huckaby: Three Forbidden F Words: Faith, Family, and Fathers 

The Artist Talk featuring Sedrick Huckaby will be held on Saturday, April 23, 2016 at 11:00 am. The artist will speak to his latest exhibition, Three Forbidden F Words: Faith, Family, and Fathers, on view at the Valley House Gallery through May 7, 2016. This exhibition includes paintings, sculpture, and drawings from his studio, as well as prints and works on paper resulting from residencies at the University of North Texas P.R.I.N.T. Press, STUDIO-f at The University of Tampa, and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art’s Davidson Family Fellowship.

Evanston, Illinois
Northwestern University
Black Feminist Futures Symposium

The Black Feminist Theory Reading Group "seeks to provide a platform for students to dialogue and network with emerging and established scholars in the field of black feminist theory, as well as encourage interdisciplinary conversations around the future of black feminist thought and theory."

Black Feminist Futures, a two-day symposium that traces Black feminist theory and praxis in and beyond the academy, will fill an institutional void of Black feminist intellectual engagement and social networks at Northwestern. Centering intergenerational Black feminist dialogue as a critical intellectual and social force, sixteen leading scholars will participate.

The Symposium will be held at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, on May 20 and 21, 2016. 

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania

The 20th Annual Graduate Student Symposium on the History of Art will be held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on April 10 - 11, 2016. 

Keynote Address:
April 10, 2016, 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.
Structural Adjustment:Mapping, Geography, and the Visual Cultures of Blackness will be delivered by Steven Nelson, Professor of African and African American Art History, University of California, Los Angeles. The visual practices of artists Mark Bradford, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Houston Conwill, Moshekwa Langa, and Julie Mehretu who use mapping and geography in their works— are explored. Nelson will discuss how these artists reshape our understanding of African ancestry, notions of diaspora, and urban spaces. 

April 11, 2016, 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
This symposium presents current research by graduate students from Bryn Mawr
College; Pennsylvania State University; Princeton University; Rutgers: The
State University of New Jersey; Tyler School of Art, Temple University; University of Delaware; University of Maryland; and University of Pennsylvania.

 Wilmington, Delaware
Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts 
2016 Gretchen Hupfel Symposium

The 2016 Gretchen Hupfel Symposium:  Repositioning Blackness in Contemporary Art at The  Delaware Contemporary Art (Wilmington, DE) will be held on Saturday, April 16, 2016. There are two sessions.

The Art Workshop will be on Saturday, April 16, 2016 from 1:00 to 2:00 PM. Teaching Artist, Tia Santana leads the Workshop and Discussion: Materiality and Narratives of Our Ethnic Hair. Ms. Santana brings her own studio practice and work with hair as a medium to the context of a workshop. Participants will explore the materiality of hair as a creative medium and discuss cultural narratives associated with ethnic hair. 

The Symposium theme will be discussed 6:00 to 8:30 pm from the perspectives of practicing artists, educators, and critics. The Delaware Contemporary’s 2016 Gretchen Hupfel Symposium will explore the complexities of art creation from within both personal and sociopolitical contexts, while considering the ongoing civil rights movement of today.


Zoë Charlton is an accomplished visual artist and an Associate Professor at American University in Washington, DC. 

Jessica Lynne, Arts Critic and Co-founder of ARTS.BLACK, is a Brooklyn-based writer and arts administrator. She states, “ARTS.BLACK is a platform for art criticism from black perspectives predicated on the belief that art criticism should be an accessible dialogue - a tool through which we question, celebrate, and talk back to the global world of contemporary art.”

Julie McGee has published widely on contemporary African American art and South African art, with a particular focus on artist and museum praxis. McGee joined the University of Delaware as an Associate Professor and Curator of African American art in 2008.

Jefferson Pinder is an accomplished interdisciplinary artist and an Associate Professor at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. His work challenges viewers to think critically about our highly polarized society by exploring representations, visual tropes, and cultural symbolism.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Notes on Collecting: A Conversation with Congressman John Lewis

Elizabeth Catlett, Civil Rights Congress, Linocut, 1950. Sight size: 14" x 8". Property from the collection of Reverend Douglas Moore and Dr. Doris-Hughes Moore. Image: Weschler's Auctioneers and Appraisers

The following interview with Danielle Isaacs (DI), Fine Arts Specialist at Weschler's, features Congressman John Lewis (JL), and was shared with me by Danielle. Congressman John Lewis, the representative of Georgia’s 5th District, is known as one of the most prominent figures of the Civil Rights Movement. He has dedicated his storied career to preserving the rights and freedoms of the American people. What many do not know, is that Congressman Lewis is also an avid collector of African American art. The interview that follows shows the depth of his art historical knowledge and passion for collecting.  

DI: How long have you collected works by African American artists? Who are the primary artists in your collection? 

JL: I have collected African American art for almost 50 years.  Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence and Charles White are the primary artists in my collection.  I developed an appreciation for art when I was in school in Nashville during the 1960s.   The great artist, Aaron Douglass, taught me art appreciation at Fisk University, and during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, African American art served as an inspiration to us all.  Seeing our work, in the struggle, depicted on canvas or in other forms of fine art was very uplifting.  My appreciation for African American art grew out of these experiences.

DI: Do you think it is important for works by Washington DC artists, such as Lois Mailou Jones and Sam Gilliam, to stay in DC, or is it good they are being collected throughout the United States and even internationally? 

JL: I think it’s important that the work of great artists like Jones and Gilliam be shared throughout the world, especially in traveling exhibitions.  But it is so fitting and appropriate for as many of the works of these artists to be viewed by visitors who come to Washington seeking to understand the cultural history of the city.  These works should be owned by Washingtonians because they express the last 100 years of contribution African Americans have made to this city.  Ownership demonstrates the indelible connection between the artists from another period and the culture of the city today. 

DI: Randy Kennedy of the New York Times recently wrote an article entitled “Black Artists and the March into the Museum.” Referring to the increase in African American centered exhibitions at museums, Kennedy writes "One result is a growing realization by ambitious collectors that the absence of important works by black artists in their collections diminishes their own seriousness. What is you opinion of collectors of American art suddenly realizing their collections are incomplete without African American artists? 

JL: I think that the museum community, art activists, and the artists themselves must do a better job of affirming that African American art is American art of world-class caliber. The stories of African Americans are some of the most inspiring stories of human history. They speak of pain and suffering, the on-going struggle for human dignity, the hopes, aspirations and dreams of a people. These are universal concepts and ideas expressed beautifully and innovatively by African American artists. Perhaps some museums and collectors have finally realized that we all have stories to share, and it is not possible to tell the whole story of this nation without including African American art.   

This short interview offers a transition into exploring the selections of art that are available in a special upcoming auction of African-American art at Weschler's.