Friday, July 17, 2015

From the Archives: Black Enterprise (December 1980)

In gathering notes for another piece that I am working on, Gallery 62: National Urban League, I surreptitiously stumbled upon the following articles in Black Enterprise (December 1980) and because of their timeliness, decided to share them with BAP readers. The link to this issue of Black Enterprise was provided by Google Books. The following articles, relating to the visual arts, are highlighted: 
  • Publisher's Page, Investing in Our Culture by Earl Graves (page 9). There is a strong focus on the visual arts within this issue. It serves as a celebration of the fine arts as it celebrates the visual artists, highlighting the challenges that these artists face in light of the rewards they offer viewers in general and the collector in particular; and the role of the corporate collector and the impact that they can have, as they are offered an opportunity to combine pleasure with business. Through their art, these artists have the capacity to express the struggle of Blacks for equality. In addition, there is an aesthetic reward in supporting Black artists. The following statement sums up Grave's sentiment, "an investment in art is also an investment in our culture."
  • The Bullish Market for Black Art by Judith Wilson (pages 34-36, 39-40). The subtitle gives a clear indication to the content of this article: Companies and individuals have discovered patronage of the arts can help the bottom line. The article focuses on such companies as Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company, Johnson Publishing Company and Johnson Products Company, Atlanta Life Insurance Company, Brooklyn Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, etc. 
  • Where to See and Buy Black Art (page 41) This is a list of museums, galleries, college and corporate collections of Afro-American artists in the vanguard. Although it is now a bit dated because a number of the galleries have closed. However, knowing that they existed is a rich piece of history for one who continually digs to uncover any solid documentation relating to the history of Black art/artists. I am always looking, sometimes with success and sometimes not so successful, for catalogues, brochures, or any ephemera produced by galleries that were on the forefront of representing or showing the work of Black artists. Two of my biggest challenges, in terms of locating material, have been Brockman Gallery and the Barnett-Aden Collection. However, recently, I have had success with discovering approximately 12 catalogues from Gallery 62 (National Urban League). Also, I just stumbled upon a wonderful little gem from Just Above Midtown. With the list that appears in this issue, I will now expand my search strategy to include a few other galleries that I was formerly not familiar. Although a select gallery may be closed, there may just be some ephemera in the hands of a local secondhand book dealer.
  • New Rituals, New Visions (pages 43-48, 51). This article features a mini-exhibition of works by Afro-American artists in the vanguard, including Clarence Morgan, David Hammons, Jacqui Holmes, Bill Traylor, Curtis Bunyan, Jules Allen, Clifton Webb, Randy Williams, John  Scott, Richard Powell, Ray Grist, Senga Nengudi, Margo Humphrey, and John Dowell. As I read this article, a number of questions came to mind. Where are these artists 35 years after the publication of this issue? What impact have they had on broadening and defining the perspective of American art? How well have these artists and their works been documented in newspapers, journals, exhibition catalogues, standard text, etc? Are their works more included in mainstream museums than artists 35 years ago? How well are these artists compensated for their works and how does that dollar amount compare in value to 1980 selling prices? etc., etc., etc.         

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Artist Talk: Sonya Clark: Unravelling the Confederate Flag

Sonya Clark will be in NYC at Mixed Greens Gallery in Chelsea on June 11th at which time she will be deconstructing the battle flag of the Confederacy as a performance piece alongside Lowery Sims (Emeritus curator of the Museum of Arts and Design), Phyllis Galembo (photographer) and Olatunde Johnson (civil rights lawyer, professor at Columbia) to name a few. This piece is a response to the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War and the horrific events around police brutality on black lives. 

In this piece Sonya looks at the current events and poses the question, "How far have we moved in 150 years and how do we move forward from here?"  

SEE: New Dominion curated by Lauren Ross, on view June 11 - July 17, 2015 at Mixed Greens Gallery.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Elson Lecture 2013: A Conversation with Glenn Ligon

Works about Unfinished Business     Repetition      Race Relations

Black and White      What a Painting Can Say      America

Important Work about American History      Condition Report

Reflections on Language     History as a Process      Decomposing

History of Race Relations      Hidden Image     Iconic Image


Further Readings: Check your local library (public, academic, museum, etc.) or favorite bookstore.

Glenn Ligon: AMERICA (Whitney Museum of American Art). New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011.

Glenn Ligon: Come Out. London: Ridinghouse, 2014.

Glenn Ligon: Figure. Paris: Yvon Lambert, 2008.

Yourself in the World: Selected Writings and Interviews. New Haven: Yale University Press in association with Whitney Museum of American Art, 2011. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Selection of Upcoming Art Talks: Highlighting Black Art or Artists

Atlanta, Georgia
Tuesday, April 21, 2015 | 7:30 - 8:30 p.m. | Reception Hall, Level Three
Mildred Thompson (American, 1936-2003), 1989
The Second Mystery, Etching, Artist's Proof
Lent by Wes and Missy Cochran
"In a program titled Let’s Talk About Mildred, collectors Wes and Missy Cochran join curator of the Mildred Thompson estate, Melissa Messina, and Carlos Museum Associate Curator of Works on Paper, Andi McKenzie, for a conversation about the life and work of artist Mildred Thompson, whose prints are featured in the exhibition Creating Matter."   

Birmingham, Alabama
Kelli Morgan, Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Curatorial Fellow
of African American Art 
Lecture: Decoding Black Art: Rising Up: Hale Woodruff's Murals at Talladega College
Sunday, June 21, 2015 | 2 - 3 p.m.

"Join Kelli Morgan, Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Curatorial Fellow of African American Art at the BMA, for a lecture series on African American art. The series will analyze and illuminate important works of African American art within the Museum’s permanent collection. All lectures are free and open to the public.

Kelli will discuss Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College."

Cambridge, Massachusetts
The Ethelbert Cooper Gallery
 of African and African American Art at the Hutchins Center

Sunday Afternoon at the Cooper Gallery
In Conversation: Steven Nelson and Abigail DeVille 
Sunday, April 12, 2015 | 2 p.m. | 102 Mount Auburn Street

Steven Nelson, Associate Professor of African and African American Art History, University of California, Los Angeles; Cohen Fellow at the W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute, Hutchins Center, Harvard University.

Abigail DeVille, Independent Artist; Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University.

Chicago, Illinois

Gallery Talk: Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist
Tuesday, April 14 and Tuesday, June 9, 2015 | 12:15 p.m. | Sidney R. Yates Gallery, 4th Floor North

The themes of Motley's work—identity, migration and social change—will be central to the discussion. 

Columbus, Ohio
Department of African American and African Studies

Artist Talk:  Art as Resistance: Emory Douglas, Minister of Culture for The Black Panther Movement 
Thursday, April 16, 2015 | 4:30 - 6 p.m. | Barnett Collaboratory, Sullivant Hall 141

Emory Douglas, Artist
"Emory Douglas will deliver a lecture along with a power point presentation related to his graphic artwork during 1960s and 1970s Black Panther Party era, when he served as the Minister of Culture and Revolutionary Artist. He will also showcase some of his more recent work, putting into context the social and political importance of the artwork being displayed." The event being produced in conjunction with: Department of African American and African StudiesBarnett Center for Integrated Art and EnterpriseOffice of Diversity and InclusionOffice of Student LifeDepartment of Art and the Department of English.

East Lansing, Michigan

Lecture: Mickalene Thomas
Monday, April 27, 2015 | 7 p.m. | S. Kedzie Hall, 107

"The paintings of Mickalene Thomas combine iconic images of African American women alongside the classic genre of portraiture.  Drawing on art history and popular culture, her monumental works consider the relationship between black female sexuality, beauty, and power.  Her work is represented in the collections of the Guggenheim, Whitney, MoMA, and many others." Free and open to the public.

Hanover, New Hampshire 
Dartmouth College 
Artist Lecture: Victor Ekpuk: Excavating Memories
Friday, April 24, 2015| 4:30 p.m.  
Victor Ekpuk. Composition No. 13 (Sante Fe Suite),2013
Graphic and pastel on paper
Courtesy of the artist. © Victor Ekpuk

Victor Ekpuk will discuss how he mines historical, cultural, and social memories to shape his aesthetics.  

 Hartford, Connecticut

Contemporary Art Series: Hank Willis Thomas: History Doesn't Laugh
Wednesday, May 6, 2015 | 6 p.m.

Hank Willis Thomas, Basketball and Chain, 2003, digital c-print photograph, 
Gift of Jean Crutchfield and Robert Hobbs 
in honor of Susan Talbott, 2014.14.1
"One of the most provocative and innovative conceptual artists of today, Hank Willis Thomas discusses the impact of photography on his work and explores how the concepts of spectacle and display connect to notions of African American identity and commodification."

Los Angeles, California

Panel Discussion: A History of Refusal: Black Artists and Conceptualism
Wednesday, May 20, 2015 | 7:30 p.m.

"This panel explores the politics and legacy of African American artists, both of Charles Gaines’s generation and after, who use strategies of conceptual art to investigate identity, representation, and American culture. The panel also considers the impact of past exhibitions that examined black conceptual practices and questioned what constitutes a “black aesthetic.” With speakers Thelma Golden, director and chief curator, the Studio Museum in Harlem; Hamza Walker, associate curator and director of education, The Renaissance Society, Chicago; and artist Rodney McMillian."   

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Lecture: Norman Lewis: Abstracting African American Art
Tuesday, April 21, 2015 | 12 - 1 p.m.

"Norman Lewis (1909-1979) was among the earliest African American artists to explore abstraction. Ruth Fine, Independent Curator and former Curator of Special Projects in Modern Art at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., provides a preview of PAFA’s fall 2015 exhibition, Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis, examining the parallel courses of his abstract and figurative motifs."

San Francisco
Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, de Young Museum

Docent Lecture: An African American Experience, by Sharon Walton
Sunday, April 26, 2015 | 2:15 p.m.

"This lecture reflects upon personal, national, and collective African American experiences and illustrates how they have influenced American art."

Waltham, Massachusetts
Rose Art Museum, Brandeis Museum

Artist Lecture: Melvin Edwards
Friday, April 17, 2015 | 1:30 - 2:45 p.m.

Melvin Edwards
"Pioneering African American artist Melvin Edwards will join Brandeis Professor Chad Williams (Chair of African and Afro-American Studies) and Christopher Bedford (Henry and Lois Foster Director of the Rose Art Museum) for a conversation in front of sculptures from Edwards’s “Lynch Fragments” series, currently on display as part of the Rose Art Museum’s presentation of new acquisitions."

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Artists Talk: "Uprooted: Artists Respond to San Francisco's Black Exodus"

3.9 Art Collective        San Francisco        Uprooted          

Pushed Out        Working Together       Nancy Cato 
Rhiannon MacFadyen        Rodney Ewing       Mark Harris

Fillmore District        Displaced        Colonization Ahead

Black Exodus        Diminishing Number of Black People        

Don't Gentrify Me!       Foreclosure        Doors Being Closed

Doors a Metaphor for Home          

Buses are Representation of Big Technology

History of Trying to Find Home         

Less African American Art Makers Exhibited


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Thomas Watson Hunster (1851 - 1929), Sale 2378 Lot 4, Swann Galleries

There are a number of pieces of art that I have been drawn to in the upcoming auction, Ascension: A Century of African-American Art, at Swann Galleries on April 2, 2015. However, I am particularly interested in Thomas Watson Hunster because of his Washington, D.C. connection, and the fact that I had not ever seen any of his art. Very little archival information regarding Hunster or his art is available in print; therefore, I was not as familiar with him as I was with many of the other artists in the auction. Because of the lack of information that I have in my personal archive on Hunster, coupled with the fact that I was drawn to his landscape appearing in the upcoming African-American sale, Lot 4, at Swann Galleries, I decided to some research and learn more about this artist. 
Lot 4: Price Realized with Buyer's Premium: $6,500.

Thomas Watson Hunster, View of a Valley, Oil on linen canvas, circa 1900-10.
31" x 21½". Signed in oil, lower left.
Image: Swann Galleries 

My exploration led me to the Artist Files at the Smithsonian American Art/Portrait Gallery Library where I located a small archival folder for Thomas Watson Hunster. Of the 3 - 4 documents in that folder, the most promising was a small exhibition catalog from a memorial exhibition at Howard University (1951). The foreword to this catalog presented a 5-page biographical sketch written by Stanton Lawrence Wormley. Excerpts from that essay follow:   
  • For forty-eight years, until his retirement in 1922, Thomas W. Hunster served with distinction as Head of the Art Department of the Public Schools of Washington, D.C. [Hunster was over art in the black school system].
  • Art critics of the time were enthusiastic in their acclaim of the "historical accuracy of the buildings," the "exquisite models of the human figures and horses," the "faithful portrayal of artistic landscapes," and the "correctness of every detail."
  • Hunster exhibited rarely but always with success: Jamestown Tercentennial Exposition (1907), Paris International Exposition (1907), Exposition of the Society of Washington Artists (1926), Exhibition of the Independent Artists and Sculptors (1927), and Exhibition of the Washington Independent Artists (1928).
  • Thomas W. Hunster is fundamentally a landscape painter. The influences upon his work are many. Most evident are those of the Hudson River School, and especially the middle period of George Innes. It may be safely said that the work of Jerome Uhl, well-known artist at the turn of the century, had direct bearing on that of Hunster. (As an aside, Hunster was the model for Uhl's painting, The Viking, 1887.)  
  • Nature in all her seasons, in all her aspects, and in all her moods held a tremendous fascination for [Hunster], and the infinite love he bore her is apparent in his work to even a casual observer. 

Also, featured in the Howard University exhibition catalog, there was a landscape, Summer Daythat has a striking resemblance to Lot 4, appearing in the Swann auction. It is obvious that the two landscapes were painted from the same location because the left field of the canvases are fairly identical. However, the right half of the canvases present the landscape from a slightly different angle and perspective. 

I will continue this research on Thomas W. Hunster, and will share as significant information is uncovered.  

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Swann Galleries: African-American Fine Art Sale 2378

Swann Auction Galleries will feature Ascension: A Century of African-American Art on April 2, 2015. This auction, Sale 2378, is the latest in a series of Swann's African-American Fine Art auctions, and it consists of 178 lots. The theme of Ascensionthe act of rising to an important position or a higher level, continues the recognition and elevation of African-American art to its rightful place in American art history. 

As we celebrate Women's History Month, this post highlights works by select women artists featured in Sale 2378 as representative samples of a broader spectrum of African-American women artists. It is a tribute to all African American women artists, acknowledging and recognizing the contributions that they have made to the field of American art. 

As time passes, I hope to see more female artists included in auctions such as this, as well as main stream art auctions. As one of the crucial vehicles in bringing awareness to the collector, auctions play a crucial role; and through this awareness, the collector can make a significant impact in changing the structure of the art world. For the future, lets envision a newly informed collector, wielding power in collection building, that moves in the direction of more female and racial inclusion. This newly informed collector will deconstruct the existing western structure, emphasizing American white males. The end result leads to a more representative and inclusive sample of  American art in our galleries and museums.     

In addition to the artists highlighted in this post, Ascension: A Century of African-American Artfeatures works by Barkley L. Hendricks, Charles White, Romare Bearden, Edward Bannister, Thomas Watson Hunster, Henry Ossawa Tanner, James A. Porter, Delilah William Pierce, Richmond Barthé, Betye Saar, Allan Freelon, Hale Woodruff, Dox Thrash, Sargent Johnson, Jack Whitten, Faith Ringgold, Eugene J. Martin, Sam Gilliam, Edward Clark, Hank Willis Thomas, and others. 

Beulah Woodward, Maudelle. Painted terra cotta, mounted on a wood base, circa 1937.
Approximately 12" high. Image: Swann Galleries
Lot 21, Beulah Woodward, Maudelle

This beautiful bust is a very scarce example of this early Californian sculptor's work. In this sensitive portrayal, Woodard displays a powerful realism - particularly in the careful modelling of her subject's features. Maudelle Bass (1908 - 1989) was a professional dancer and artist's model. Lot 21 has an estimate of $10,000 - $15,000. Price Realized with Buyer's Premium: $12,500.

Loïs Mailou Jones, Lobsterville Beach. Oil on linen canvas, 1945. 26" x 32". 
Signed and dated in oil, lower right recto.
Signed and inscribed "Howard University, Washington, DC"
in ink, and titled in chalk on the upper stretcher bar, verso.
Image: Swann Galleries
Lot 39,  Loïs Mailou Jones, Lobsterville Beach   

This painting, Lobsterville Beach, is an impressive Impressionist canvas and one of the largest landscapes by Jones that Swann Galleries has located of a Martha's Vineyard subject. This lot has an estimate of $30,000 - $40,000. Price Realized with Buyer's Premium: $62,500.

Laura Wheeler Waring, Untitled (Still Life with Tulips and Figurine).
Oil on canvas board, circa 1940-45. 23 3/4 " x 19 3/4".
Signed in oil, lower left. Image: Swann Galleries
Lot 40,  Laura Wheeler Waring, Untitled (Still Life with Tulips and Figurine)

During her distinguished career Waring created a number of landscapes and still lifes. This painting, Still Life with Tulips and Figurine, is in the impressionistic style characteristic of a large portion of her works. From a private collection in Massachusetts, this lot has an estimate of $8,000 - $12,000. Lot was Unsold.

Mavis Pusey, Untitled. Oil on burlap canvas, circa 1968. 42" x 52½".
Signed in oil, lower left recto. Signed in pencil, lower right verso. Image: Swann Galleries
Lot 89,  Mavis Pusey, Untitled

This striking modernist abstraction, Untitled,  is typical of Mavis Pusey's distinctive late 1960s canvases. She was born in Jamaica and immigrated to New York at the age of 18 to study at the Art Students League. Lot 89 has an estimate of $15,000 - $25,000. 
Lot was Unsold.

Elizabeth Catlett, Glory. Cast bronze with a copper-colored patina, on a wooden base,
1981. 14" x 9½" x 10". From the first part of the total edition of 9,
which was later completed in 2006.
Initialed "EC" and dated, rear lower edge. Image: Swann Galleries
Lot 146, Elizabeth Catlett, Glory  

The sitter for this bust is Glory Van Scott, performer, dancer and educator, who gained fame as the principal dancer with the Katherine Dunham, Agnes DeMille, and Talley Beatty dance companies and as a performer on Broadway in the 1960s and 1970s. Lot 146 is the fourth known cast of this bust and it has an estimate of $25,000 - $35,000. Price Realized with Buyer's Premium: $57,500

Carrie Mae Weems, You Became Playmate to the Patriarch and Their Daughter.
Diptych of Chromongenic prints, with etched text on glass, 1995.
Both: 23½" x 19½". Both signed, dated and numbered 2/10 (left panel) and
1/10 (right panel) in pencil on the flush mounts, verso.
From the series From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried. Image: Swann Galleries
Lot 167, Carrie Mae Weems, You Became Playmate to the Patriarch and Their Daughter

Another set (each numbered 7/10) of these images were offered in the Photograph auction, April 24-25, 2006, at Christie's New York. In that sale the pair had an estimate of $3,000 - $5,000, and reached a realized price of $15,600. 

Fast forward to Sale 2378. Lot 167, You Became Playmate to the Patriarch and Their Daughter, has an estimate of $15,000 - $25,000. Price Realized with Buyer's Premium: $23,750.

Kara Walker, The Emancipation Approximation (Scene 18).
Color screenprint on Somerset 500 gram paper, 1999-2000. 44" x 34".
Initialed, dated and numbered "XVII/XXV" in pencil, verso.
 Published by Jenkins Sikkema Editions, New York.
From The Emancipation Approximation portfolio.
Lot 169, Kara Walker, The Emancipation Approximation (Scene 18).  

Lot 169 is one screenprint (scene 18) from the set of twenty-six screenprints. Another edition of this print appeared in the Modern and Contemporary Editions auction at Phillips on June 8, 2011 with an estimate of  $6,000 - $8,000 and sold for $10,625. 

Lot 169, The Emancipation Approximation (Scene 18), has an estimate of $6,000 - $9,000. Price Realized with Buyer's Premium: $23,750.   

The works will be on public exhibition at Swann Galleries, to check dates, see Preview Dates.  An illustrated auction catalogue, with information on bidding by mail or fax, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online.

For further information, and to make advance arrangements to bid by telephone during the auction, please contact Nigel Freeman at 212-254-4710, extension 33, or via email at                                                     

Live online bidding is also available via invaluable.comThanks to Swann Galleries for the use of images and written material in the catalogue.

Further Readings:
Elizabeth Catlett

Elizabeth Catlett / New York Times

Loïs Mailou Jones

Loïs Mailou Jones / Callaloo Interview with Charles H. Rowell

Loïs Mailou Jones / Smithsonian American Art Museum...

Mavis Pusey