Tuesday, November 24, 2009

BLACK... the exhibit

The Black Artists of D C and the D C Arts Center present an exhibition, BLACK. The curators, Amber Robles-Gordon and Daniel T. Brooking, were successful in their goal to encourage the participating artists to define black in all of its splendor. I have always been fascinated by the successful use of the color, black on black, as a positive force of power in the creative process, but was proud to see the various ways in which those artists, that I know as friends and colleagues, have interpreted the color, the concept, the image, and various subtexts of black culture within expected societal constructs as well as not so readily expected constructs. Beauty, grace, economics, racism, slavery, discrimination, language, education, history were all incorporated, yet diversely different, and unified into the single theme of BLACK either specifically stated or implied. The message through color, use of language, selection of or creation of representational images all shouted, documented, and celebrated black. 

The image above, incorporating the theme of the exhibition, BLACK, includes the works, from left to right, of Claudia Gibson-Hunter, The Diva and the Carpenter; from the estate of Harlee Little, Every Shut Eye; and Amber Robles-Gordon, Cosmic Black 1. According to Amber's exhibit statement, "We are indebted to ...the late Harlee Little, one of the founding members of Black Artists of D C, for the concept of the exhibit." This concept, for such an exhibit, has now been realized and beautifully executed.

The following are a couple of additional images from the show:

Sonya Clarke, Afro Abe II, paper (currency) and thread, 8"x1"x4"

Afro Abe transcends the concept of race and transports the traditional image of Lincoln to a Black world with an embroidered afro on an unexpected medium, currency... a statement on hair culture and race politics in America.

Gloria C. Kirk, For Hire, giclee print, 25"x19"

For Hire captured what was obviously standard language used in the sale and rental of Blacks as human commodity. The sentence fragments are simple, straightforward, but powerful in the use of language superimposed on the image of six young faces with expressive eyes peering through and emerging from the wood background, seemingly imprisoned by the words which surround them... FOR HIRE, white woman, 18 years, 16 years, Jefferson County, servants; sentences not complete but message easily understood.

Visit the exhibit and support both the Black Artists of D C and the D C Arts Center. Again, congratulations to Amber, Daniel, and all the artists included in the BLACK exhibit. BLACK is on view through January 10, 2010 at the District of Columbia Arts Center, 2438 18th Street, NW, Washington, DC 2009. 

© 2009 Black Art Project... all rights reserved. For permission to reproduce contact: blackartproject@comcast.net.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Nubian Clock

I have been asked on a number of occasions, what is the object in the picture that appears on your Blog? It's referred to as a Nubian clock. The picture shown at the right is a clearer image of the Nubian clock; a piece that I purchased during my long collecting period of black memorabilia; less time is now spent in that collecting field since I have been consumed by my love for collecting and documenting black art. However, the two collecting fields are so compatible, and I am always pleased when I see the number of visual artists who incorporate memorabilia into their artwork.

There is a companion piece to the clock that appears in the form of a television (t v) lamp; it has the same "Art Deco like" color theme and the same pose. They were designed whereby the two pieces face each other, creating a wonderful unit. Both pieces are at least sixty (60) years old, and are of equal fine condition for their age. They were purchased at different times, the lamp in Virginia and the clock in Kensington, Maryland about two years apart. As you can see, they are still being used and enjoyed.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

CALL for ARTISTS: Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition

January 13 through February 28, 2010
The Museum of Science and Industry commemorates Black History Month with the Black Creativity program, which includes one of the country’s oldest African-American art exhibitions. Prominent artists from around the globe submit their work to the Juried Art Exhibition in the categories of ceramics, drawings, mixed media, paintings, photography, print media, sculpture, textiles, and video. Participants are recognized at the annual Juried Art Reception, a gathering celebrating the diversity of African-American participation in the applied arts.

Ceramics • Drawings • Mixed Medium • Paintings
Photography • Sculpture • Textiles • Video

A panel of judges will choose artists to receive prizes. Prizes will be distributed
as follows:
1st place: $3,000
2nd place: $2,000
3rd place: $1,000
Best of Media Prize Ribbons
All artists whose work is featured in the 2010 Juried Art Exhibition will receive a certificate of recognition.

All African-American artists are eligible to enter. Each artist may submit up to four entries. Work must have been completed in the past three years and not previously shown in the Black Creativity exhibition.

Do not submit actual artwork at this time. Only JPEGs will be accepted for consideration, with no more than two JPEGs for each item entered. Identify each JPEG with title of work, dimensions of work and date completed. JPEGs will be returned at the time of notification. Please write the art titles and your name on the CD.


The completed entry form, artist statement and biography accompanied by JPEGs and fee,must be received by the Museum of Science and Industry no later than Friday, November 6, 2009.

A non-refundable entry fee of $50, payable to the Museum of Science and Industry, by money order only, must accompany the entry form and JPEGs.


The Museum will not accept works that are not ready for hanging or installation suitable for final presentation. Drawings, paintings, photography and prints must be framed under plexiglas or glass, and wired for hanging. If work is accepted into the exhibition, all work must be delivered to the West Entrance (west parking lot) of the Museum. Deliveries will be accepted from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (CST) on December 18 and 19. The artist is responsible for the cost of crating, shipping and delivery to the Museum. Sculptures and other fragile pieces should be delivered in person or shipped with special handling instructions. Because of the potential for artwork to arrive damaged, work shipped in cardboard boxes and nailed crates will be returned unopened at the artist’s own expense. Shipped work must be sent in prepaid wooden crates screwed together suitable for return. At the close of the exhibition, shipped work will be returned and insured at the Museum's expense. Work delivered in person must be picked up in person from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 5 and 6, 2010 at the West Entrance (west parking lot). The Museum will not store or be responsible for artwork not retrieved by these dates. Submission of entry form indicates acceptance of these conditions.

At the close of the exhibition, shipped work will be returned and insured at the Museum’s expense. The Museum will not be responsible for any damage,delay or loss in shipping; the only recourse will be against the shipping
company or insurer.

Both the Museum of Science and Industry and the Black Creativity program disclaim any responsibility for any offer, purchase, sale or any other transaction between visitors of the Juried Art Exhibition and artists featuring works at the exhibition. In no event shall the Museum of Science and Industry or the Black Creativity program be liable for any damages (whether special, incidental, consequential or otherwise) with respect to any such transaction. For further information, call (773) 947-4161.

ENTRY FORM: Apply online: www.msichicago.org/bc2010 or mail to: Black Creativity, Juried Art Exhibition Museum of Science and Industry 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60637-2093

November 6 Deadline for receipt of all items December 7 Jury notices mailed to artists of accepted workDecember 18, 20 Accepted artwork delivered to MuseumJanuary 13 Artists’ reception, press preview and awards ceremonyJanuary 14 Juried Art Exhibition opened to the publicFebruary 28 Final day of exhibitionMarch 5, 6 Deadline for pick up of artwork

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Who is Mark Hewitt?

The 366th Infantry Regiment was a segregated (all African American or the more appropriate time-specific term, Negro) unit of the United States Army; it served with distinction in both World War I and World War II. This unit was particularly unique because it was one of the few Negro units with all its own officers and personnel.

The Spirit of 366th (oil, 1943), a permanent piece of the Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries, was the Second Purchase Award in the Atlanta University Art Annuals. It was painted by Mark Hewitt.
When I first saw Hewitt's work, then read the title, Spirit of 366th, I immediately reflected on thoughts of racism, unequal treatment, segregation, and all the ills associated with a segregated Jim Crow society. I was griped by the power and strength of character in the subject's face and started to wonder what thoughts might have been going through the subject's mind or even the mind of the artist as he painted the work. As I stood before the work, I was drawn into that deep penetrating, almost hypnotic gaze of the soldier. My immediate thoughts were who is the artist, Mark Hewitt? Then, who is the subject of this portraiture?

Almost a month after having seen the art work, the artist's name still lingered in my mind, so I began the process of investigation. I contacted the Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries and spoke with both Tina Dunkley (Director) and Sheena M. Earl (Curatorial Assistant) with questions about the artist. I discovered that there is little on file, but Tina has agreed to share with me what they have, and perhaps those pieces of information might lead me to other connections on this journey to discover more about the artist.

In the meantime, my library skills have been set in motion and I am on this investigative journey to explore and discover what information I might find in the literature. I am certain that my discovery will prove fruitful.

If any of you have any information about Mark Hewitt or his art, please share.
© 2009 Black Art Project... all rights reserved. For permission to reproduce contact: blackartproject@comcast.net.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Captured Memory: The National Black Arts Festival 2009

Two exhibitions, Streams of Social Change and Abstraction in the CAU Art Collection, opened at the Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries during the recent National Black Arts Festival 2009 (July/August). The exhibitions will be on view through spring 2010.

Noting the collection's significant history, Clark Atlanta University’s (CAU) permanent collection is replete with social commentary works that were acquired through annual art exhibitions held between 1942 and 1970. The Atlanta University Art Annuals, which were launched by Hale Woodruff, visionary artist and teacher, were a direct response to the overt exclusion of African-American artists from the contemporary art scene during that time period. Streams of Social Change clearly demonstrates and reflects the strength of CAU's collection relating to the theme of social commentary.

Streams of Social Change "features work that reference episodes in American history that have adversely affected African Americans—racial conflict, oppression, alienation, protest, politics, war, and displacement." One painting was particularly poignant because of the strength and pensive gaze of its sitter, a Black serviceman. I am referring to Mark Hewitt's Spirit of 366th, 1943. The Spirit of 366th was a Second Purchase Award in the 1943 Annuals.
Viewing this piece was a learning experience simply because I was not familiar with the artist, Mark Hewitt, so this has led me down a path of discovery and exploration, which is always an exciting experience.

Abstraction in the CAU Art Collection features older as well as recently acquired works of Sam Gilliam and Felrath Hines. "In this exhibit, the long standing debate between Modernism and Realism in which artists express their inner most concerns for formal and spatial elements of art are explored. After exploring the human figure early on in their careers, some African American artists were compelled to navigate between the expectations of the African American cultural establishment and their own creative freedom. When African American artists began exploring their African ancestral legacies, they were forced to reconcile the contradiction of European artists embracing non-European cultural expression while simultaneously being excluded from the discourse." A fine example from this exhibit is Felrath Hines (1918-1993), Intermission, 1989, oil on linen. (see image above) Intermission is one of six pieces donated to the Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries by Felrath Hines' widow, Ms. Dorothy Fisher.

The Galleries are located on the second floor of Trevor Arnett Hall on the corners of James P. Brawley and Greensferry Streets in Atlanta, Georgia. They are open from 11:00 am – 4:00pm, Tuesday – Friday and by appointment on Saturday. For more information call 404/ 880-6102, ext.6644.

© 2009 Black Art Project... all rights reserved. For permission to reproduce contact: blackartproject@comcast.net.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Welcome To My Global Hood

How does one create a blueprint for urban environmental activism through art that appeals to inner-city youth? The blueprint for achieving that goal was successfully realized and accomplished by Oakland, California artist, Milton Bowens in his 2009 Artist in Residency Program, Arts Change.

Can environmental justice and fine art work together to empower youth, community, and the world abroad? This is simply one of the questions posed and eventually answered during Bowens' Artist Residency. The success of the program was based on Bowens being an attentive listener in his conversations with the youth and through that listening he found the ingredients to map out a story line that would lead to the blueprint for his urban environmental artist activism that led to Welcome To My Global Hood.

As a result of being a part of this program, a group of 15 inner-city youth were motivated and excited about creating art and being a part of a global movement towards environmental change. They were empowered and the tangible outcome was the creation of a body of work by both Bowens and his students that spoke to the issue of environmental justice and the creative use of fine art as an effective tool for change through activism. Testimonies from a number of the students will appear on YouTube...stay tuned for that release.

An on line catalogue was produced for Welcome To My Global Hood and will be featured on http://www.milton510.com/, www.facebook.com/milton510bowens, and http://www.artschange.org/.

Listen to EPISODE 14 - Go Green Sangha Radio-"Art and Environmental Justice" with artist Milton Bowens: http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/21325

© 2009 Black Art Project... all rights reserved. For permission to reproduce contact: blackartproject@comcast.net.

The Black Exhibit

The Black Artists of DC (BADC) and the District of Columbia Arts Center (DCAC) are sponsoring a juried art exhibition, The Black Exhibit, beginning November 20, 2009 through January 10, 2010. The description, as outlined by the sponsors, offers many opportunities for creativity, activism, or simply afford participating artists an opportunity to be a part of an exhibit that will embrace, celebrate, and document the Black experience.

According to the promotional material, artists are asked to "reach deep into the emotional, theoretical, spiritual, cultural, intellectual, or physical aspects of blackness. The objective is not the absence of colors; it's the predominance and use of the color black in your creations. Relish in the concept and color of black...its elegance, depth, and dizzying sensation of infinity... ."

For details that include submission guidelines, fees, deadline; delivery of materials; notification of selected artists; delivery of work to DCAC Gallery; and other particulars, see images above.

Visit the DCAC at the following address: http://www.dcartscenter.org/

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Validate Yourself...Question 8

This is a continuation, part 8, of the series of questions posed by the Black Artists of DC (BADC). In the art world how does one authenticate works of art?

The easiest way to establish authenticity is to buy directly from the artist or make purchases from a reputable and established gallery that is proven to be the representative of that artist. A current practice with limited editions is to secure a letter of authenticity that often comes with the purchase. If purchasing directly from the artist or a gallery, you should expect a contract for the sale of art work. This full receipt with date of purchase, title of work with brief description that includes medium, cost and artist’s signature will serve as documentation. Feel comfortable to write any personal descriptive notes, in pencil, that you deem necessary on the back of this contract; these dated personal notes along with the actual contract will create the beginning of the provenance of the work.

For posterity, some collectors even have a photograph of themselves with the artist and artwork to show their connection to the artist. Beyond having a work authenticated by the artist, one has to rely on the gallery or have authenticity validated by a personal property appraiser with a specialization in African American art. Be very clear on this matter…the specialist needs his/her credentials in personal property appraisal with a focus on African American art/artists.
© 2009 Black Art Project... all rights reserved. For permission to reproduce contact: blackartproject@comcast.net.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Don Griffin Selected for Rauschenberg Tribute Exhibition

Don Griffin, Baltimore artist with Washington, DC roots, has been notified that his work, "Port Arthur," was selected for inclusion in the upcoming Rauschenberg Tribute Exhibition. The exhibition will be on view in the Dunn Gallery at the Museum of the Gulf Coast in Port Arthur, Texas from August 30, 2009 to October 22, 2009.Please View Announcement at Link Below :http://www.comzee.com/RauschenbergTributeDonGriffinAnnouncement.html

In a discussion, with Don regarding the competition, I posed two questions to him. What was your intent as you prepared the piece for competition? Share with me any feelings or words about the piece and/or the competition.
Don's responses follow: "When I first heard that Rauschenberg had passed, I was very sorry to hear it. He was probably my favorite artist. I believe I own 3 books on him. In the 1990's I was working on assemblages from time to time when I wasn't painting. There was a need for works in 2D & 3D that compelled me to seek a solution where in I could do both disciplines. I was moving out of my soft sculpture period, which was my primary method for making statements in art.

During this period, I was represented by HENRI GALLERY in Washington, DC. Henri had an Avant Garde stable of artists, and they worked in the sculpture field. I didn't realize at the time I was also creating sculpture, until she enlightened me! When she passed in 1996, I was left to start all over again in the search of new representation. This also was a turning point leading out of soft sculpture exclusively. About this time, I began working with assemblages in wood. Not too long afterwards, I began incorporating elements of soft sculpture with the assemblages.

One day I visited a Book Store in Towson, Maryland to browse though the art books section. I came across a book on Rauschenberg, whom I had not been aware of, and discovered he was working in a similar manner, which he described as combines. I was totally in shock! I skimmed through the book for a while and left. The book was like haunting me to go back and purchase it. The $75 price tag was the evil that kept me from going back. I later lost the fight, and purchased my first $75 Art Book! Ever since that time, I have been a fan.

When hearing about the loss of Rauschenberg, I almost immediately began thinking about creating a piece in homage to him. Nothing was evident at the time, so it slipped in the recess of my mind. Then one day as I looked at art calls, I discovered a competition that was being organized by the Gulf Coast Museum in Port Arthur, Texas. I told my friend Diana about it, and how I would like to be a participant. I mean, how could I not be included in this exhibition? I told her. This is my arena, this is what I do. Its the perfect time to create that piece that I consider reflective of the artist I admired so much.

I determined after some time that the piece would contain card board as an element in the piece. This size gave me a problem, because I wanted it to be larger than the criteria dictated. Later, I put the size issue behind me and stretched a 37"x 48" canvas. Diana assisted me in locating a collection of boxes from various sources for the composition which was developing.

Elements were being collected which I considered connective to Rauschenberg. He thought a lot of the newspaper. So, there would be evidence of it somewhere in the composition. I settled on a hot topic at the time...The Automakers. Then there was the Presidential Photo Strip I created with the First Black President, some controversials such as Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Bush Jr, etc. A reverse positive photo of Rauschenberg with a bicycle, and a reverse positive of a cow. It has always intrigued me the way farm animals reacted when approached. In unison, they all stop and turn their heads to look at you...like what's up?

The card board element had a real need to be in Port Arthur. Many various type boxes were collected for this purpose, and I think the one that most said Rauschenberg for me...was the kid. I wanted the top layer of the card board and it was not particularly easy to separate it from the corrugated section. It was a very physical struggle to do it, especially for the hands and the effects of discomfort traveled to my back."
I appreciate that Don agreed to allow me to share his experience with you.
© 2009 Black Art Project... all rights reserved. For permission to reproduce contact: blackartproject@comcast.net.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Crossing the Border: Russian Research Librarians and the Black Art Project

On June 8, 2009, George was involved with a Congressional funded program through the Open World Leadership Center that included representatives from various types of libraries in Russia. This project was proposed and led by Kristen Regina, Host Coordinator and Head Librarian at the Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens (Washington, DC). The goal of this program was to help art librarians create a broader audience by incorporating the study of specialized art libraries with general and public libraries, ultimately crossing the border of traditional art readership to inspire new readers. George, as an art librarian, was involved because of the successful grass root strides that he has made in documenting the efforts and accomplishments of black (African American) artists through the publication of the Guide to Black Art Exhibitions.

It was an enlightening and engaging experience for the visiting delegation, as well as the presenter and the American host. George demonstrated in his talk/presentation how the Guide to Black Art Exhibitions evolved as a publication, focusing on the use of technology and particularly the Internet to explore new ground in discovering untapped information and culling it together into some meaningful way to create the annual Guide. Further discussions centered on a marketing strategy that included how to reach out to a broad audience via simple and low-cost means such as email and the web.

Although, the topic was not based on Russian culture or history, the template used for the success of the Guide could be replicated in any culture. There was engaging dialogue during and after the presentation. This was yet another way to develop a network of contacts between Russian and US art librarians for professional collaboration, problem solving, and possible future joint research.

The delegation was presented copies of the Guide to Black Art Exhibitions and they presented George with a copy of Alexander Pushkin's In Hopes of Fame and Bliss to Come.

© 2009 Black Art Project... all rights reserved. For permission to reproduce contact: blackartproject@comcast.net.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Validate Yourself...Questions 6 and 7

This is a continuation, parts 6 and 7, of the series of questions posed by the Black Artists of DC (BADC). Why did you start collecting black art exhibition catalogues? Why did you establish the Guide to Black Art Exhibitions?

Collecting black art exhibition catalogues was a gradual and evolving process. As a collector of black (African American) fine art, I strongly believe that a collector of art should be familiar and knowledgeable about the literature surrounding that art. I'll refer to this as the history and documentation of fine art. Very early on, I had a keen interest in learning about the fine arts and became very active in the gallery and museum world. As a learning experience, I slowly began collecting catalogues, simply by purchasing them from the various exhibits I attended locally and when traveling. The main purpose was to learn more about black art and artists and to be knowledgeable and able to speak intelligently on the subject. The more I read and learned, the more I wanted to know. There was a natural curiosity of how individual artists fit into the whole picture of American art.
As my knowledge base increased, my library skills kicked in and I recognized that there was a gap in the literature focusing on black art/artists. There simply did not appear to be enough information out there in the key journals and monographs, and in a naive sense, I wanted to attempt to fill that gap by creating a repository containing documentation of ephemeral materials, monographs and exhibition catalogues. In comparison to other cultural fields, including the performing arts, I recognized that printed material in fine arts literature was less available. I began to refer to these gaps in the literature as the missing links in our black cultural heritage. As I began to study and use the collections in the various black repositories and even major libraries in general, I realized that so much was missing in those collections. Even when books and catalogues had been published, they seemed not to exist in many of our libraries. A great part of the problem probably stems from the fact that most of the catalogues are published in small runs, usually no more than 3,000 copies and are usually available only at the actual exhibition venues. There is not a mass distribution plan, unless the exhibition is national in scope, meaning that it is a traveling exhibition. Consequently, the exhibition catalogues are acquired on a more regional basis rather than national.

Collecting became a passion and I aggressively scoured standard bibliographies to identify what had been published by decade, starting in the 1980s and moving backwards to the 1950s. So, the basic strategy was to see what was available on the secondary market based on a list of titles that had been published. I created my own list of definitive or must have titles and began the search from that point. The Internet was an invaluable resource, introducing me to the secondary market of book dealers. I was able to locate titles from across the country and many for a nominal cost, particularly those in smaller cities and less urban locations. It was not until recently that there has become competition to acquire the literature focusing on black art/artists. Even among collectors of black art, there may not be a concerted effort to collect the print materials relating to the art or the artists. I refer to these materials: books, exhibition catalogues, show announcement cards, press releases as part of the documentation of black art/artists. Because of my interest in documentation, I wanted to acquire as much as I could afford in terms of primary and published materials on black art/artists.

The Black Art Project publishes the Guide to Black Art Exhibitions, and the Guide has gradually evolved to where it is today. When I began the publication, it was born from one of those ah ha moments. For years, I collected exhibition catalogues and each year in the process of looking for the latest exhibition catalogues, I would discover exhibitions with and those without catalogues. Consequently, each year I had amassed all of this information on black exhibitions and literally did nothing with it; it was raw data. After about 3-4 years of having accumulating then destroying the information after I purchased the catalogues, I realized that the data collected was not available in any single source, so I came up with the idea of pulling the information together in some meaningful way. That meaningful way took the form of the annual Guide to Black Art Exhibitions. It is such a good feel to know that others might benefit from these efforts and black art/artists are documented in some tangible sense. I strongly believe that there are many small ways that many of us can contribute to this documentation and preservation of our visual arts culture. The immediate use of the Guide is apparent; but the Guide, in some small way, does its part to document. My hopes are that it will or can be a tool that others will use, at a later date, to write a part of a bigger story.
© 2009 Black Art Project... all rights reserved. For permission to reproduce contact: blackartproject@comcast.net.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Validate Yourself...Question 5

This is a continuation, Part 5, of the series of questions posed by the Black Artists of DC (BADC). What are the tools available at the library for research on Black artists?

There are some tools that are related specifically to Black artists and then there are other tools that may not be race specific, but will contain information on a small number of established Black artists. In seeking information on those artists who may not be widely cited in the literature or who have yet to appear in indexed print sources, we still have ways to capture information on them, but the challenges are greater. A brief discussion such as this does not lend itself to in-depth coverage of the literature, but allows me to touch upon some classic tools that readily come to mind. However, keep in mind that there are many other sources and the ultimate selection of any resource is based on the level and depth of information that one seeks. I will mention just a few historical and current sources that can get the average person to biographical information and samples of an artist’s work and these sources will appear in most library collections. Keep in mind that the local public library, an academic library if services are extended to you, and the local museum libraries are all points at which you can explore and discover the world of Black art/artists. As your needs expand, there are other sources to which your local librarian can direct you.

Afro-American Artists: A Bio-bibliographical Directory by Theresa D. Cederholm is a 1973 classic source that lists personal information, including exhibition history, selected works, print sources with reviews and other information on artists.

250 Years of Afro-American Art: An Annotated Bibliography by Lynn Moody Igoe (1981) is a comprehensive source that consists of 3 bibliographies: The Basic Bibliography is an annotated bibliography of books, exhibition catalogs, and periodical/newspaper articles that refer to more than one artist or Afro-American art in general. The Subject Bibliography is an annotated bibliography of references to selected subjects in Afro-American art. The Artist Bibliography contains individual bibliographies for artists and it includes references to specific artworks that are reproduced in the literature cited in this particular book.

St. James Guide to Black Artists is a biographical source (1997) that includes personal information, a biographical sketch, exhibition history, publications that include the artist, collections in which the artist is a part of, and in some instances there may be a few illustrations.

In order to locate the most recent information about an artist, one can explore general as well as art specific databases such as the following:
  • Biography and Genealogy Master Index is one of the best sources to begin a search for information about individuals from any field. It's an index to current, as well as important retrospective works, and it is international in coverage.
  • Art Index is in both paper and electronic formats. The paper format is a monthly publication. The electronic database, which is updated daily, provides ease of use and can cover an extensive number of years based on your search parameters. This is a critical resource for any type of art research. Its broad coverage of contemporary art around the world includes new artists, exhibition reviews, non-western art, feminist criticism, and Black artists when they are featured totally or part of an article. Currently, over 377 international art publications are indexed. Art Full Text (electronic) offers full text plus abstracts and indexing of publications, covering 1984 to the present. Also, there is Art Index Retrospective (electronic) that is an accumulation of citations to Art Index volumes 1-32 of the printed index, covering the years 1929 through 1984.

The Local Artists File is a file created by the Art Division of the District of Columbia Public Library in which they collect supplemental and ephemeral material about artists of the Metropolitan Washington area, especially those associated in some way with the District of Columbia. The file consists of exhibition catalogs, pamphlets, gallery announcements, newspaper clippings, and any other information that is located in the literature or donated by artists. This is a particularly strong source for information on individuals who are not yet published in standard books, etc.
Another important feature when researching art/artists is to determine the auction history or ascertain whether an artist has had any auction history. It is this history that will often determine cost on the secondary market.
  • AskArt http://www.askart.com/ The uniqueness of this electronic resource is its accessibility to auction records for those artists who have auction history. In an unfortunate sense, the records from this source do not include prints or photography. This is a fee for service site.
  • Gordon’s Print Price Annual has a vast number of international auction results, covering 50,000 prints (2005 ed). Also, there is a Gordon’s Photography Price Annual International.
  • Davenport’s Art Reference and Price Guide is easy and fast to use with a very comprehensive artist index. There is price information for over 275,000 artists. However, keep in mind that the prices are an approximate indicator based on an average of what an artist’s works are worth.
To get the up to the minute and accurate auction prices, consult the auction house where the artist’s works were sold. As an example, if one is looking for the current auction value of artists who appeared in the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company auction at Swann Galleries (October 4, 2007) visit their web site to see the online catalog: http://www.swanngalleries.com/full.cgi?index_id=347&sch_id=375 and see the actual results of the auction http://swanngalleries.rfcsystems.com/asp/RealtimeResults.asp .

Finally, for artist’s who are deceased, there are sources to consult to authenticate the artist’s signature. The most widely known of these are in a series by John Castagno. There are the American Artists Signatures and Monograms from 1800 (two editions) and Abstract Artists: Signatures and Monograms, an International Directory.
These sources should get the researcher started on his/her path to explore and discover Black artists. For more specific questions, see your local art librarian. Start your search at the public library and the experience itself will be a reward. That starting point for District of Columbia residents at the DC Public Library would be by phone at 202/ 727-1291, or visiting at 901 G Street, NW (MLK Memorial Library), Room 209. If the information is not readily on hand, the librarian will make appropriate referrals.
© 2009 Black Art Project... all rights reserved. For permission to reproduce contact: blackartproject@comcast.net.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Historical Exhibition, 2

In May of 1945, the names of 46 recipients of the Julius Rosenwald Fellowship for 1946 were announced. That number included 29 Black fellows and among its ranks was Alice Elizabeth Catlett who, at the time, was an instructor of art at George Washington Carver school in New York city. Catlett's vision, as a fellow, was to do a series of lithographs, paintings, and sculptures of Negro women. After a year of planning, thought, and work, her vision was clearly defined and brought into focus in her reapplication for a fellowship in 1947, and she received her second award. In that reapplication process, Catlett settled on a "complete unit" of prints. This complete suite of 15 images are a strong and well-told commentary on The Negro Woman, stirring and intense in both images and words. Each of the images can stand along, but their strength is even more enhanced when seen and read as a cohesive unit. The story of The Negro Woman is clearly and strongly expressed in images and words.

In December 1947 - January 1948, the thirty (30) pieces that were conceived and created while Catlett was studying for two years on a Rosenwald Fellowship were exhibited at the Barnett Aden Gallery in Washington, DC. It is an undisputed fact that The Barnett Aden Gallery is one of the first privately owned Black galleries in the United States and the first one in Washington, DC. It was founded in 1943 by James Vernon Herring, chair of Howard University's Department of Art, and Alonzo Aden, curator of the Howard University Gallery of Art. In addition to providing a venue for such Black artists as Romare Bearden, Lois Mailou Jones, Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence, Archibald Motley, John Robinson, and others, it was one of the few galleries in the city in which artists representing different nationalities, races, and ethnicities exhibited together.
The cover and a page from the 1947, The Negro Woman, exhibition catalogue listing the pieces that were on exhibit are shown above (see illustrations). This catalogue contained 4 pages that included a Preface written by Gwendolyn Bennett. Under the section labelled Prints appears the full series of The Negro Woman, consisting of 15 pieces. These 15 pieces present a narrative with each image and its caption representing one phrase of the narrative. Look carefully at the captions of those individual pieces as they spell out the significance of The Negro Woman, acknowledging hard work, celebrating renowned heroines, and focusing on the fears, struggles, and achievements. The series begins with I am the Negro Woman and ends with the fifteenth in the series, My Right is a Future of Equality with other Americans. In their entirety, the images and words make a powerful statement of social commentary for the time period.

Jane Watson Crane, in a review appearing in the December 21, 1947 issue of the Washington Post (page L5), states "Two things stand out concerning the Elizabeth Catlett exhibition on The Negro Woman... one is the meticulous craftsmanship, the other the straightforward approach. The artist has something to say here, and she pulls no punches. This is an unusually strong show for a woman--unusual also in the variety of media--paintings. sculpture and prints are shown--in all of which she seems perfectly at home."

My curiosity was raised as I read Crane's review and noticed the statement an"unusually strong show for a woman," yet there was surprisingly no mention of race. With an understanding of segregation in the South in 1947, I would have expected some mention of race, as well as the sexist comment; however, such was not the case. Racial tones in Crane's review were not mentioned which led me to think that perhaps Crane was of the school of thought that more readily accepted blacks as accomplished artists which probably demonstrated a more liberal position of those working in the arts. My thoughts and questions will probably drive me into conducting some research to find out who was Jane Watson Crane, not the Washington Post writer, but Crane the person.

Roughly 62 years after their completion, we are still afforded an opportunity to see the entire suite of prints from The Negro Woman series in a traveling exhibition, A Force of Change: African American Art and the Julius Rosenwald Fund, currently at Spertus Museum (Chicago, Illinois, on view through August 16, 2009). The exhibition will travel to the Allentown Art Museum (Allentown, Pennsylvania, September 13, 2009 - January 10, 2010); and end at the Montclair Art Museum (Montclair, New Jersey, February 6 - July 25, 2010). A catalogue accompanies this exhibition. For more information on A Force of Change: African American Art and the Julius Rosenwald Fund, follow this link: http://www.spertus.edu/exhibitions/rosenwald.php

© 2009 Black Art Project... all rights reserved. For permission to reproduce contact: blackartproject@comcast.net or blackartproject@yahoo.com .

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Validate Yourself...Question 4

This is a continuation, Part 4, of the series of questions posed by the Black Artists of DC (BADC).

When were the black art files at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library established and why? What exactly should artists submit and to whom?

The DC Public Library does not have a file called the black art files. However, the Local Artists File began over 60 years ago and black artists are a part of that historic file. About 13 years ago, the Art Division of DC Public Library made a concerted effort to identify and encourage black artists to become a more active part of this file because there was such a presence of black artists in the city and metropolitan area. With the emergence of BADC, it has been somewhat easier to identify the artists who need to be a part of this wonderfully rich file. It is important for artists to have information accessible for researchers, collectors, appraisals, students, etc. The Local Artists File, which is a secure reference file, in which information is given to customers to use a few pieces at a time, contains much of the primary source materials that one can use to write articles, reviews, biographical sketches, appraise art, identify an artist, etc. The materials in this file do not circulate; they must be used in the Library.

Each artist is asked to fill out a two part questionnaire that is on acid free paper. This questionnaire is the basic foundation of the file which contains pertinent information on the artist, including samples of the artist's signature(s). In addition to this basic questionnaire, the artist is free to donate any supplemental and ephemeral material that he/she chooses. The file consists of exhibition catalogs, pamphlets, gallery announcements, newspaper clippings, letters, and etc. It is continually updated through a network that has been created with a number of the local commercial galleries and organizations that share copies of local artists information, biographies or resumes. The collection is constantly growing, and presently has in excess of 1,800 artists, each of which is in a separate folder. Some artists who are very conscientious about updating their material will have more than one folder full of materials. Questions about this file can be addressed to any art librarian at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, District of Columbia Public Library System by calling 202/ 727-1291.

After an artist has had a file established, information may be sent to the Art Division, Room 209, District of Columbia Public Library, 901 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20001. I encourage local artists to become a part of this Local Artists File, and to keep their information current, creating a schedule that best suits them for updating. A quarterly or even an annual update should not be taxing on the artist. The success and advantage to having a current file is that you are a part of building a legacy for the future.

© 2009 Black Art Project... all rights reserved. For permission to reproduce contact: blackartproject@comcast.net or blackartproject@yahoo.com .

Thursday, March 19, 2009

James A. Porter Colloquium on African American Art

TRAJECTORIES: Discourse and Critique in African American Art and Art of the African Diaspora

This is an excellent opportunity for art historians, artists, critics, curators, collectors, interdisciplinary scholars, museum professionals, gallery owners, librarians/archivists, students, and the general public to support and be engaged in the documentation of African American art and visual culture. Participate in the 20th Annual Celebration of the James A. Porter Colloquium at Howard University.

Dates: April 16 - 18, 2009

Place: Howard University, Armour J. Blackburn Center, Washington, DC

Honorees: Sharon Patton and Judith Wilson

Keynote Address: Salah Hassan

Speakers: Cheryl Finley and Emma Amos

Contact: info@portercolloquium.org

To register and for the full Colloquium schedule and highlight information on honorees and speakers, follow this link: http://portercolloquium.org/colloquium/2009/colloquium-program/

"The James A. Porter Colloquium is the leading forum for scholars, artists, curators and others in the field of African American Art and Visual Culture. Established at Howard University in 1990 by art historian, Dr. Floyd Coleman, the annual Colloquium is named in honor of James A. Porter, the pioneering Art Historian and Professor, whose 1943 publication Modern Negro Art laid the foundation for the field of study. The Colloquium continues his legacy through dynamic programming, scholarly research and artistic leadership. Past Colloquium presenters have included such leading scholars and artists as David Driskell, Ann Gibson, Leslie King Hammond, Michael D. Harris, Samella Lewis, E.J. Montgomery, John Scott, Deborah Willis and Judith Wilson."

"The Porter Colloquium continues its tradition of boldly promoting innovative perspectives, ground breaking scholarship and open critical dialogue on African American art. During this year’s three-day program, scholars, artists, and cultural critics will examine the ideas that influence how works of African American artists are viewed, interpreted and valued. To this end, the Colloquium reveres the legacy of Professor James A. Porter and honors artists of color with clear and probing analyses of our visual traditions."

This is the 20th Annual Celebration of the James A. Porter Colloquium, celebrating the legacy of Professor Porter and honoring artists of color with clear and probing analyses of our visual traditions. As has been its tradition, during this annual three-day program, scholars, artists, and cultural critics will examine the ideas that influence how works of African American artists are viewed, interpreted and valued.

This year’s theme, Trajectories, "provides a frame by which art historians, artists, critics, curators, collectors and interdisciplinary scholars, privilege topics, concepts, and issues that further tease out the complexities, the multiple levels of meaning, the subtleties, the contradictions in recent artistic production and art scholarship. The trajectories that are being explored in Porter Colloquium sessions this year include demographics, the movement of people and ideas over large parts of the world and particularly their immigration to the United States and to major art centers around the world. To be sure, the changes that have taken place over the past two decades need reexamination, particularly with respect to the changes in artistic productions and the exploration of concepts and ideas that have helped to change the artistic landscape."

The presentation of James A. Porter Colloquium is presented in conjunction with the following programmatic partners: The David C. Driskell Center, University of Maryland: http://driskellcenter.umd.edu/ and the Howard University Art Gallery.

© 2009 Black Art Project... all rights reserved. For permission to reproduce contact: blackartproject@comcast.net or blackartproject@yahoo.com .

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Historical Exhibition

It is exciting to run across and physically hold one of those rare exhibition catalogues documenting a time period when there were fewer opportunities for the black artist to exhibit and certainly to exhibit in a black owned gallery. Such is the case with the first annual exhibition from June 8 - 22, 1939 at the Salon of Contemporary Negro Art sponsored by the Augusta Savage Studios, Inc. The gallery was located at 143 West 125th Street, New York, New York.

By today's standard, the small catalogue is a single sheet folded into 4 pages and would probably be referred to simply as a brochure. Yet historically, it is an invaluable art history document that allows us to put the gallery and the actual exhibition into an historical perspective. Augusta Savage, George W. Lattimore, and Kenneth W. Smith are listed as directors. Listed on the two inside pages of the catalogue are the titles and artists of the 54 pieces included in the exhibit. A list of 30 artists which represent a virtual 20th century who's who of black artists includes such artists as Meta Warrick Fuller, Richmond Barthe, Robert Pious, Rex Gorleigh, Morgan Smith, Gwendolyn Knight, Norman Lewis, Ellis Wilson, Beauford Delaney, Georgette Seabrooke, Marvin Smith, William Farrow, Francisco P. Lord, Lois Mailou Jones, Selma Burke, Ernest Crichlow, James Lesesne Wells, and Augusta Savage.

According to the Chicago Defender (National edition), June 10, 1939, the headline on page 13 reads: "Artists Get New Inspiration --From Augusta Savage-- Who Opens Gallery To Sell-- Their Work To The Public." As stated in the article, "The first art gallery in America devoted to the exhibition and sale of the works of artists of the Race will be opened at 143 West 125th Street, New York City on June 8.... This new gallery...is owned and operated by Race members and will open formally with an exhibition of the works of outstanding artists of today." Augusta Savage was president of the corporation (Augusta Savage Studios, Inc,) which sponsored the Salon of Contemporary Art; George W. Lattimore was vice-president; and Kenneth W. Smith was secretary-treasurer.

In announcing the opening of the new gallery, Augusta Savage said, "I have long felt that Negro artists, in the course of our development, have reached the point where they should have a gallery of their own--one devoted to the exhibition and sale of Negro art. The Salon of Contemporary Negro Art will attempt to fill that need. We have made every effort to make this one of the finest galleries in the country." (Artists Get New Inspiration From Augusta Savage Who Opens Gallery To Sell Their Work To The Public (1939, June 10). The Chicago Defender (National edition), p. 13.)

© 2009 Black Art Project... all rights reserved. For permission to reproduce contact: blackartproject@comcast.net or blackartproject@yahoo.com .

Friday, February 27, 2009

Swann Galleries Auction

The African-American Fine Art auction (Sale 2169) was held at Swann Galleries on Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 1:30 PM. Although smaller than last year's sale which consisted of 264 lots, this sale had 169 lots of many museum-quality works from a number of private collections, representing all of the major 20th-century artistic movements. The smaller number of pieces in the auction might be indicative of the downturn in the economy. One can readily assume, with a fair degree of accuracy, that many of the items that were presented at auction are in private hands and owners are fearful that they might not be able to get the maximum price for their items in an auction at this time. As I speak of money and value, I am ever mindful that there are dangers when one assumes that the price of a piece of art determines the quality of that art; history has shown that "price equals quality" is a poor barometer. However, such can not be mistaken when it comes to African American art that is woefully undervalued in the overall landscape of American art. Comparable African American artists of the same school of art, representing the same time period sell for considerably less than their counterparts. This makes them a favorable group to collect because their works have a greater potential to increase exponentially in value.

In spite of the fact that African American art is one of those current undervalued commodities with potential to realize a substantial future increase in value, the number of items sold and the price at which they sold in this auction is an indication that times are tight even for those with disposal income. There were only twenty lots that had a low estimate of at least $25,000; they included works by Hale Woodruff, Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Charles White, Hughie Lee-Smith, Beauford Delaney, Charles Alston, Eldzier Cortor, Norman Lewis, Sargent Johnson, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and Howardena Pindell. A quick analysis of those twenty lots follow:

  • Of the twenty lots, eleven (lots 12, 16, 23, 29, 30, 36, 38, 73, 82, 112, and 136) of those were unsold, including Charles White's "Hope Imprisoned," tempera on paper, which was estimated for $150,000 to 200,000. (See image at top left, Lot 30.)
  • Six lots (1, 35, 41, 42, 46, and 55) sold for less than their low estimates, including Charles White's "Move on up a Little Higher," which had an estimate of $200,00 - 250,000. Its hammer price was $190,000. (See image at bottom left, Lot 55.)
  • Lot 2, Henry O. Tanner's "Adoration of the Golden Calf" was the only item that sold for its high estimate ($60,000).
  • Two lots (45 and 93) sold above their high estimates. Lot 45 was Hughie Lee-Smith's "Untitled" (rooftop view) which sold for $85,000; its high estimate was $75,000. Lot 93 was Hale Woodruff's "Cinque Exhorts his Captives" which sold for $130,000; its high estimate was $100,000.
According to Nigel Freeman, Director, African-American Fine Art at Swann Galleries, "...We were thrilled to sell our cover lot, Move on up a Little Higher, a majestic drawing by Charles White to an important museum. We also set a new record price for a Hale Woodruff painting, Cinque Exhorts His Captives, 1973, which sold for $156,000; this was the fourth consecutive auction record for the artist (Woodruff) set at Swann in the past four years."

In ending this piece, I want to clarify the term sold. The "hammer price" refers to the winning bid and reflects the highest bid on the item; then the "buyer's premium," which reflects an agreed upon percentage of the "hammer price" are combined to get the realized amount paid by the successful bidder. In my examples, I have quoted the hammer prices. To view all the lots, follow this link to the archived catalogue:
To view the sale results (realized price paid) follow this link: http://swanngalleries.rfcsystems.com/asp/realtimeresultsmenu.asp

© 2009 Black Art Project... all rights reserved. For permission to reproduce contact: blackartproject@comcast.net or blackartproject@yahoo.com .

Monday, February 16, 2009

Collecting As a Way of Life

The National Gallery of Art is sponsoring a series of programs focusing on collecting African American art. This auditorium lecture series, of three programs, commenced on Sunday, February 8, 2009 and will end on February 22, 2009. It starts at 2:00 P.M.

I missed the first lecture in the series, but did attend the second, this past Sunday. The second in the series focused on "Collecting as a Way of Life," featuring the art collection of Juliette Bethea. This was not a lecture, but a conversation between Juliette and Ruth Fine, curator of special projects in modern art, National Gallery of Art. The backdrop on the stage featured an enlarged image of a central wall in Juliette's home and the two sat in front of that image, allowing the audience to peer into the personal space of the collector. It was an effective means to present the art. I felt that I had been invited into Juliette's living space and was a part of a tour without being intrusive. Each piece of art on the central wall was described, mentioning artist, title, medium, year, provenance, and anecdotal stories as they existed. The anecdotal stories added a richness to the visual tour and gave it a familiar and personal touch. Throughout the explanation of the art, select pieces of art were highlighted, featuring visual detail and projected on another portion of the wall on the stage. This technique afforded the audience an opportunity to see an even clearer image of the art and allowed the conversation to focus specifically on what was being highlighted. The overall presentation worked.

A few of the visual artists represented included: Romare Bearden, Herbert Gentry, Richmond Barthe, Elizabeth Catlett, Dox Thrash, Frank Smith, Samella Lewis, etc. The overall collection was strong in textiles, representing international weavers. Also, there was a major collection of Mary Jackson's baskets; Juliette has collected baskets since 1993 and is a strong supporter of the fiber artist, Mary Jackson, owning a large collection of her intricately coiled vessels that preserve the centuries-old craft of sweetgrass basketry.

There were a couple of personal favorites that I liked in the lithographs of James Wells. One was Wells' "Rendezvous" (1930), featuring a male and female, in which the faces were very similar to that of "The Negro Worker." They were signature Wells' faces. The collector expressed that she collected works that were not widely known images. Again, such is the case with Wells' "Waterfront and Cape Cod."

There was a short question and answer period, but the following was gleaned from the questions posed, as suggestions to help the young or new collector:
  • Stay true to yourself. This collector is non-traditional in her selections and her art selections come from her passion and belief in conserving the culture.
  • Tips to being a successful collector include being actively involved in the process of collecting by going to museums, art shows, galleries, meeting artists, and studying.
  • Buy what you like.

One of the most salient points made in the conversation is that Juliette collected as a working class individual and is not wealthy, and she looks at herself as the custodian of the works that she has collected. In many instances, she got to know the artists and supported the efforts of many young artists, trying to make a difference in their lives in a tangible way. She believes very strongly in encouraging young artists, and she collects their works, but they were not featured in the visual presentation. In planning the program, the decision was made to stay with the historical artists.

See the podcast: http://www.nga.gov/podcasts/index.shtm.

The final segment in this three part series will be on February 22, 2009 at 2:00 P.M., featuring Harmon and Harriet Kelley, collectors in conversation with Deborah Willis, university professor and chair, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University.

© 2009 Black Art Project... all rights reserved. For permission to reproduce contact: blackartproject@comcast.net or blackartproject@yahoo.com .

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington: Picturing the Promise

This exhibition, The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington: Picturing the Promise, curated by the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) features approximately 100 images created by one of the premiere African American photographic studios of its day. The Scurlock Studio was a Washington, D.C. black owned institution. Although I had seen many of the images in various books from time to time, to see them amassed in a single exhibition provided a positive impact to the viewer. They presented a virtual history lesson of the time, beginning around 1914 to 1980, in a clear, sharp, and exquisite presentation of black culture, racial issues, achievements, and success.

In spite of the positive images that were portrayed, I am reminded of a piece of wall text that accompanied the exhibition, "Inspirational as these images are, they reflected just a microcosm of the lives of most black District residents, suggesting progress that often was more myth than reality." That microcosm was beautifully portrayed through the images presented in all their success, accomplishments, and beauty of the sitters...many of a "single hue." As I progressed through the exhibition and reflected on the distinct Washington, D.C. residents, I was reminded of stories that abound of "old Washington," Dunbar High School, black social clubs, black businesses, and the like. It presented a beautiful story of how we survived and created our world of peace, tranquility, and success in spite of the odds and obstacles of a segregated time.

The individual portraiture of the luminaries provide a virtual history lesson of the time. How wonderful to have a piece such as this incorporated into a civic or local history class for elementary and middle schools. Those images covered some of the earliest that were done by Scurlock. Presented in this section were portraits of Mary McLeod Bethune, Dr. Anna Julia Cooper, Mary Church Terrell, W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, Madam C. J. Walker. Fredi Washington, Robert Todd Duncan, Madame Evanti, Duke Ellington, Jackie Robinson, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., and etc.

There was a literal who's who at Howard University presented in portraiture: Charles Hamilton Houston, Ernest Everett Just, Sterling A. Brown, E. Franklin Frazier, Alain Leroy Locke, Lucy Diggs Slowe, Ralph Bunch.... The University and the Scurlock Studio had an obvious strong working and personal relationship based on the images of the social life captured on the Howard University campus. The educational scene was just one of the aspects captured in black Washington, as reflected in images of Howard University, Dunbar High School (first high school for blacks in the nation), and Miner Teachers College.

The social and political commentary were captured on a number of fronts. Scurlock (22 years old) captured one of the most memorable images of Marian Anderson's concert at Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday on the National Mall with 75, 000 attendees. A similarly impressive image was captured by one of my neighbor's father, Gaston Devigne. The picketing, Gone with the Wind, outside of the Lincoln Theater in 1947 was a strong image (see image above). The Lincoln Theater was known as the largest and finest theater for colored people anywhere in the United States...yet another superlative for Washington, D.C. The protests were captured in the 1930s and the 1960s. The 1938/39 protest outside of Peoples Drugstore at 14th and U Streets, NW..."Don't Buy Where You Can't Work" was a campaign to change unjust practices. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (1963) and images outside of the Scurlock Studio during the Riot of 1968 documents change and turmoil of the times.

From 1886 to 1920, the number of black businesses in the U Street area rose from 15 to over 300. The images in the exhibition reflected the diversity of those businesses: the Whitelaw Hotel, Club Prudhom, Lincoln Colonnade, Underdown Delicatessen, and Murray Brothers Printing Company.

In addition, there was memorabilia from both the Scurlock Studio and of individuals and institutions included in the photographs that placed the photographs into a meaningful context and added an even more authentic feel to the environment. ...An enjoyable, exciting, and rewarding experience. For location and further detail, follow the link:

© 2009 Black Art Project... all rights reserved. For permission to reproduce contact: blackartproject@comcast.net or blackartproject@yahoo.com .

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Validate Yourself...Question 3

This is a continuation, Part 3, of the series of questions posed by the Black Artists of DC (BADC).

Can you identify the key repositories of information on black art and artists in this country?I must emphasize that I will mention some of the key repositories of information on black art and artists in this country; and for our purposes, I will limit my examples to those in close proximity to the Washington, DC area. Also, bear in mind that the strength of the repository is based on the particular research or information need or topic that an individual is seeking. When I think of simply art collections with a stronger than normal focus on black visual art some of the richest collections of black art are at the Historical Black Colleges and Universities. These historical collections are valuable in their scope, breath and depth. To view and study their holdings is an educating and enriching experience. Some examples include: Howard University, Hampton University, Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, Fisk University, Morgan State University, South Carolina State University, Winston-Salem State University, and North Carolina Central University. However, even in the cases where there are strong visual art collections, there are not always equally strong archival and printed material to support research on those collections or on black art in general. Perhaps, the enhancement and documentation to support black art will be the next phase of development for those collections.

To zero in on the specific question of key repositories of information on black art and artists, particularly those in close proximity to the Washington, DC area, I would mention the following:
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library, has an Art and Artifacts Division which collects, documents, and preserves art by and about people of African heritage. Their emphasis is on twentieth century visual arts in the United States and Africa. Schomburg’s collection of painting and sculpture is a rich survey of African American artists from the late nineteenth century to the present. Their strengths include the Harlem Renaissance, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and the Black Arts Movement of the 60s and 70s. Their General Research and Reference Division is substantial in terms of books and exhibition catalogs on black artist. As a point of comparison, their treatment of literature texts is even stronger than the visual arts.

Hatch-Billops Collection, Inc. (New York) began in 1975 and consists of approximately 13,200 slides representing 352 visual artists and approximately
4,000 black and white photographs documenting African American writers, performers and visual artists. The Reference Library contains over 20,000 pieces, consisting of exhibition catalogs, doctoral dissertations, manuscripts, books, periodicals, etc. relating to African American experience in the arts. Hatch-Billops Collection houses an archival collection of oral histories of African American artists from all fields of the arts, including painter, sculptors, photographers, etc. All of those interviews will soon be online and indexed at Alexander Street Press, who publishes digital collections of exceptional quality. Finally, the Hatch-Billops Collection publishes Artist and Influence, an annual journal that includes oral histories of visual artists, as well as individuals in literature and the performing arts.

Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American ArtOne collection in the Archives that I highly recommend is the personal papers of more than seventy African American artists from the late 19th century to the present. The following are the types of items included in the personal papers of an artist: exhibition catalogs, announcements, letters, sketchbooks, clippings, photographs, posters, and writings of the artist. In addition, there are over 70 taped-recorded interviews; transcriptions are available online.

Through using these papers and reading the interviews, one can see the societal challenges that African American artists struggled to overcome and the accomplishments and contributions that they have made in spite of those obstacles.

The Smithsonian Libraries at the American Art Portrait Gallery, Hirshhorn, Anacostia, and African Art Museums house a strong collection of books, magazines/journals, and vertical files of ephemeral materials.

David Driskell Center will be an extremely strong force when those papers are processed and the book and archival collections are made fully accessible. The Gallery space is awesome and I recommend that all pay a visit; programming is strong; and collection building is on a continual focused basis.

The Local Artists Files in the Art Division of the District of Columbia Public Library are a rich source. Also, the Division has vertical files of materials and a solid book collection on black art and artists. It can either help you find what you need on site or can be a great starting point in your research endeavors and that may lead to an appropriate referral locally or across the country.

These are simply a few repositories. Across the country, special collections at major universities and museum libraries, as well as some select large public libraries, will have rich collections to varying degrees, focusing on the visual arts. Again, the few repositories that I have focused on are in close proximity to the Washington, DC area.

Finally, I need to mention the work that has been and continues to be undertaken at the Amistad Research Center, Tulane University in New Orleans, simply because of the recent devastation to the city resulting in hurricane Katrina. I must remain mindful of the strong black presence and cultural heritage in that city. The Amistad Research Center has an African American Collection that consists of two major categories: The Aaron Douglas Collection (late 19th and early 20th centuries art) and Contemporary African American Art. The Center is also the repository for the papers of Richmond Barthe, Elizabeth Catlett, William E. Pajaud, John T. Scott, Hale Woodruff and Varnett Honeywood. There is a library of over 20,000 items and all of Amistad’s books are in Tulane University’s online catalog. In addition, the books and exhibition catalogs that are a part of Howard Tilton Memorial Library at Tulane University add even more strength to the Amistad Center’s Collection.

Key repositories of information on black art and artists in this country is a topic that I intend to explore in further detail, highlighting private, academic, and public institutions across the country. As a whole, these institutions are essential because they identify, collect, and make materials accessible for our use, and through their collections, they document the role of black artists and art in the broader field of American art.

© 2009 Black Art Project... all rights reserved. For permission to reproduce contact: mailto:blackartproject@comcast.net.