Saturday, December 29, 2012

Supporting African American Art and Artists: Select African American Museums

This is the second of a four part series, focusing on ways to support African American art and artists. Part one in this series appeared on August 13, 2010 with an Addendum featured on July 8, 2012 . This current post focuses on a select group of museums and cultural centers whose missions strongly focus on African American visual arts. This is not a comprehensive list; only eight institutions, from across the country, are featured. However, it does begin a discussion to identify those institutions vying for financial support, gifts, and volunteer services. An effective starting point to identify an even larger number of these institutions begins with the Association of African American Museums (AAAM). Information on AAAM members is accessible by state from their web site. It is important to remember that all museums with a defined focus on African or African American art, history, and/or culture may not be members of the Association of African American Museums.

In order to remain viable and relevant during these critical economic times, these institutions need the collective support of all of us with an interest in African American art. As 2012 comes to a close, this is a great time to renew annual memberships or even consider an upgrade to the next level, perhaps giving a membership as a gift to a friend or relative, or even giving an outright gift to an institution.

Charlotte, North Carolina
The Harvey B. Gantt Center
for African-American Arts + Culture

The Harvey B. Gantt Center has a number of ways to become actively involved  with the Center through its various programs and services. Attending exhibitions and programs, making purchases in the museum shop, and hosting events in its space are a few of the more visible ways of supporting a museum. In addition, consider becoming a member or volunteering time.

The Harvey B. Gantt Center has five different membership levels that include unlimited free admission, private exhibition previews, discounts in the museum store, and the like. Also, there is a Gantt Center newsletter.

Membership is just one way to become involved as an active supporter of the Center. Membership levels begin with Senior Citizen/Student ($35.00) through Benefactor ($500.00). Other opportunities of becoming involved with the Gantt Center is through its Center Society, as a Collectors Circle ($1,000) or Founders Circle ($2,000) member; and becoming a Volunteer Ambassador.

As is the case for any of the museums in this post, one can simply make an outright contribution to support the museum's endeavors.   

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christopher Carter: Artist Talk

Christopher Carter, an artist from ricardogenzon on Vimeo.
This piece was produced for the California African American Museum's The Art of Christopher Carter exhibition (March 17 - May 15, 2011).

Sculptor           Artist           Wall Hangings          Rope

Found Objects         Poetic Images          Recycled Lumber

          Totemic Columns          Essence of Materials               

Monday, November 26, 2012

Select Upcoming African American Art Exhibitions: Highlights for 2013

This highlight features a few exhibitions that will be on view this coming year, 2013. Presenting the exhibitions as they approach their opening dates assures a freshness and currency of information for the visual art enthusiasts. A number of important traveling exhibitions from 2012 or earlier will still be on tour in 2013, and they are accessible from the sidebar of this Blog, Highlights of African American Exhibitions....  This sidebar is updated on a weekly basis by either adding newly discovered exhibitions or removing those that are approaching their expiration date. Its intent is to provide comprehensive coverage of current ongoing exhibitions on view for the current quarter of the year.

Black Art Project (BAP) welcomes any information or leads that you might have relating to Black art exhibitions, particularly regional exhibitions that are not traditionally marketed on a national scale. BAP will verify the accuracy of any information submitted. Thank you for any assistance that you provide.

 Belmont, California
Wiegand Gallery
Notre Dame de Namur University 

Mr. Imagination, Ghost Dress - 2000
Wire mesh, mother of pearl buttons - 48 x 36 x 36 inches
Created in 2011 for "The Roots of the Spirit" exhibition at L'Espace Re-Evolution, Venice, Italy.

The Roots of the Spirit: Lonnie Holley, Mr. Imagination, Charlie Lucas, Kevin Sampson will be on view at the Wiegand Gallery from September 15 to November 15, 2013. This exhibition was originally on view at L'Éspace Re-Evolution (Venice, Italy) where these four artists were invited by the American Folk Art Museum to exhibit during the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011.

Each of these artists "has acknowledged that divine intervention played an essential role in showing them their path. With the conviction of their African legacy, they began making art that honored their ancestors as an antidote to death and private grief. To witness Kevin Sampson’s shrines to deceased friends and relatives; the ancestor thrones of Lonnie Holley and Mr. Imagination; and Charlie Lucas’ metal sculptures that honor his grandparents by their material and method, is seeing through the eyes of the artists’ ancestors. Art is their testament to memory, healing and ultimately spiritual renewal."

Read more about these artists and view their works at The Roots of the Spirit.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Results of Swann's African-American Fine Art Sale 2290

Swann Auction Galleries' African-American Fine Art Sale 2290 on October 18, 2012 brought in $1,268,502 with buyer’s premium, falling short of its pre-sale low estimate of $2,098,200. Of the 154 lots that were offered at auction, 107 sold (69% sell-through rate by lot). According to Nigel Freeman, Director of African-American Fine Art at Swann Galleries, “Collectors sought out top-quality paintings by the masters. Norman Lewis and Henry Ossawa Tanner works brought high prices, in particular.”

The top 5 lots based on selling price with buyer's premium are as follows:

Lot 53, Charles White's Songs of Life, pen and ink on board, 1953-54 sold for $144,000 to a collector. Although this work passed the $100,000 mark, it did not reach its low estimate of $150,000.

Lot 34, Norman Lewis' Magenta Haze, oil on canvas, 1947 sold for $96,000 to a dealer.

Lot 41, Norman Lewis, Untitled (Circular Procession of Figures), oil on canvas, 1953 sold for $90,000 to a collector.  Of the top 5 lots, this is the only work that reached its high estimate ($75,000).

Lot 9, Henry Ossawa Tanner's Christ and Nicodemus (Early Study), oil on cardstock, circa 1923 sold for $90,000 to a collector.

Lot 8, Henry Ossawa Tanner's Flight Into Egypt, oil on wood panel, circa 1916-22 sold for $84,000 to a dealer.

Allan Rohan Crite, Douglass Square
In addition to the previously mentioned five lots, it is worth noting those artists who achieved an artist record in Sale 2290. Those four artists and their works follow: Allan Rohan Crite, Douglass Square ($36,000), Rex Goreleigh ($31,200), Richard Mayhew ($28,800), and Louis Delsarte ($24,000).

Rex Goreleigh, Spring Pruning
Richard Mayhew, Sacred Path    
Louis Delsarte, Reunion

Monday, October 1, 2012

Black Art Project (BAP) Booklist 4

This fourth list, in a continuing series, highlights recently published books that have an African American art focus. As stated in earlier releases,  identifying titles as they are recently published or in pre-publication status is crucial for those building a library that has some focus on African American art. Because of small print runs of these titles, it is advisable to purchase them shortly after they have been published to assure yourself that the titles that you are interested in have not gone out of print. When a title does go out of print, the secondary market becomes a viable option; however, you must then weigh cost and condition differences among the few dealers that may have a copy for sale.

The following post and the addendum of recent publications are simply a few new titles that have been released since the last Booklist:      

Image reproduced from Anthology.

Clifford Owens: Anthology is a forthcoming MoMA PS1 imprint that is scheduled for release on 11/30/12. Clifford Owens "has long been aware that the history of African-American art remains largely unwritten. Rather than rectifying the oversight in scholarly terms, Owens has created an unprecedented artistic project, a compendium of African-American performance art that is both highly personal and thoroughly historical."  

Anthology brings together final artworks (solicited from fellow African-American artists) that resulted from the performances at MoMA PS1. It will feature essays by art historians Huey Copeland, John Bowles, and MoMA PS1 assistant curator Christopher Y. Lew. Also included will be a round-table discussion with selected Anthology artists moderated by art historian Kellie Jones. 

(Image from Anthology: Senga Knight, 2011 (detail), 2 C-prints.)

Gary Simmons: Paradise is the first publication to offer a comprehensive overview of Simmons' multifarious career. A career that includes photographs, installations, sculpture, paintings, drawings, and public projects "exploring the visual language of our social and cultural landscape as they touch on symbols and themes that range from poetic longing to the vernacular of the inner city."

Paradise includes 150 reproductions with an introduction by Okwui Enwezor, and text by Gwen Allen, Nancy Princenthal, and Charles Wylie. To many of the readers, Simmons is identified with his wall drawings, or erasure drawings; this book shares the fuller scope of his body of works. On a personal level, Simmons' Duck, Duck, Noose was a visceral introduction to the 30 Americans exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery (Washington, DC); an installation that vividly brought to mind the theme of lynching and the abuse and murder that is associated with this crime. The image of the stools crowned with white hoods, encircling a hanging rope (noose) is still embedded in my memory... a powerful piece. 

Laylah Ali: The Greenhead Series is the first complete documentation of the Greenheads series by Ali, consisting of over 80 works. This is a catalogue accompanying The Greenhead Series exhibition presented by the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) on view through November 25, 2012. "Over forty of these exquisitely rendered gouache paintings—from a total of more than eighty—have been gathered from collections here and abroad to chronicle the series’ development."

"The WCMA exhibition will allow viewers to examine the evolution of Ali’s series. While the early paintings frequently focus on physically aggressive exchanges between groups of figures, these interactions are later replaced by individuals—alone or in small groups—who witness the prelude to, or aftermath of, a charged encounter. As the series continues, more and more of the figures’ anatomy is pruned away, as if the artist is examining how much can be taken out—such as arms, feet, skin color—while still communicating thought, emotion, and social status."

Laylah Ali: The Greenhead Series includes texts by art historian and critic Julia Bryan-Wilson, and poet Kevin Young, as well as an interview with the artist by curator Deborah Rothschild.

Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art is a catalogue which will accompany a forthcoming exhibition of the same title at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. The exhibition, which is organized by Senior Curator Valerie Cassel Oliver, will be on view November 17, 2012 through February 15, 2013.

 "This  publication provides a critical framework for discussing the history of black performance within the visual arts over the last 50 years." The exhibition will feature work by three generations of artists, including Benjamin Patterson, David Hammons, Lorraine O'Grady, Adrian Piper, Ulysses Jenkins, Carrie Mae Weems, William Pope.L, Terry Adkins, Lyle Ashton Harris, Clifford Owens, Sherman Fleming, Danny Tisdale, Kalup Linzy, Adam Pendleton, Derrick Adams, Dread Scott, Xaviera Simmons, among others. In addition, "the publication includes a DVD compilation of performance excerpts and is an essential tool for any understanding of the field."

Radical Presence includes an introduction and text by Valerie Cassel Oliver, foreword by Bill Arning, and text by Yona Backer and Naomi Beckwith.

Swann's African-American Fine Art (Sale 2290) catalogue documents the October 18, 2012 auction. The catalogue is arranged by lot number and features an image for each of the lots, including other pertinent information: artist, date of work, size, medium, provenance, where the work is signed and or dated, exhibition history, auction estimate, and etc.

Sale 2290 includes 154 lots in various media from many sought-after African-American artists, ranging from rare early 20th Century works through desirable contemporary pieces, including fine photographs. A short role call of artists included are as follows:  Beauford Delaney, Alvin Loving, Norman Lewis, Hale Woodruff, Dox Thrash, Robert Colescott, Allan Rohan Crite, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett, Lois Mailou Jones, Rashid Johnson, Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, Richard Mayhew, Richard Hunt, Jacob Lawrence, Robert S. Duncanson, Edward Bannister, Henry O. Tanner,  Eldzier Cortor, Sam Gilliam, Kara Walker, Hughie Lee-Smith, Benny Andrews, Charles White, Claude Clark, and others.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Swann Galleries African-American Fine Art Auction: Sale 2290

Swann Auction Galleries' African-American Fine Art Sale 2290 is scheduled for October 18, 2012. These biannual sales (February and October) have been growing over the years. Swann's first auction devoted entirely to African-American Fine Art was February 6, 2007, and many of us who have an interest in African American art/artists, either as viewers/observers or bidders, have come to expect a wide selection for our viewing or acquiring pleasure. There is a catalogue that accompanies each of the auctions, and it serves as historical documentation of the works sold, creating historical reference and provenance.

The market for modern and contemporary art continues to grow at a rapid pace; however, the actual number of artists that sell at high prices at auction is fairly small. Because of my interest in the works of African American artists, I am always concerned as to how successful their works fair in the auction setting, particularly as it compares with the larger field of American art. Regardless of selling price, one of the greatest benefits of these auctions has been the slow but progressive inclusion of African American art into auction data. 

According to Nigel Freeman, Director of African-American Fine Art at Swann Galleries, "Last year's sales met or exceeded expectations and that we're starting to see pre-recession numbers." I would tend to agree with Freeman's statements. The October 06, 2011 Sale was the most successful auction over the past three years (February 2009 to October 2011), bringing in $1,789,989 with Buyer's Premium, and selling approximately 75% of the lots.
Robert Duncanson, Young America
The following major highlights from Sale 2290 prove that substantial and importance pieces are steadily entering the art market. Robert Duncanson's Young America (1846), an oil on canvas, is a very scarce work from the beginning of his career and is the earliest painting in the Sale; its estimate is $50,000 to $75,000. "This unusual depiction of a heroic young man raising both sword and the American flag was possibly a commission by the subject's parents before the boy was sent off to fight in the Mexican-American War."

Eldzier Cortor, Classical Composition No. 4

Sale 2290 will offer two Eldzier Cortor paintings from important periods for the figurative artist. This is the first time that any works by Cortor have been featured in Swann's African-American Fine Art Auction. One of those works, Classical Composition, No. 4 (circa 1973), is a large impressive oil on canvas. It is the top lot and has an estimate of $200,000 to $250,000. Cortor is best known for elegant, elongated depictions of women that show the influences of his study of African sculpture, 19th Century French Painting, and his travels to the Sea Islands and the West Indies.
Charles White, Songs  of Life
Charles White's Songs of Life (1953-54) is a tour de force in pen and ink. White used this drawing in his application for the John Hay Whitney Fellowship and it has not been exhibited since. White was one of the 27 African American recipients of a John Hay Whitney fellowship in 1955. His project under a Whitney Opportunity Fellowship was "to depict in a series of graphic prints, drawings, and paintings, the cultural meaning behind the spirituals, secular works, and blues song of the Negro people." Songs of Life is a recently discovered large and important drawing which has an auction estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. 

Norman Lewis, Magenta Haze

Three paintings from Norman Lewis' Abstract Expressionist period will be up for auction, including Magenta Haze (1947), one of his earliest abstract paintings to come to auction. This oil on canvas has an estimate of $60,000 to $90,000.

Elizabeth Catlett, The Co-Founder Award
Elizabeth Catlett's The Co-Founder Award, cast bronze (circa 1995) has an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000.

This post has featured only a few artists and select works in Swann's African-American Fine Art Sale scheduled for October 18, 2012. In addition to the fine  art artists and their works represented here, Sale 2290 will include works by Henry Ossawa Tanner, Hughie Lee Smith, Romare Bearden, Hale Woodruff, William Edouard Scott, Thelma Johnson Streat, and others.

See the Online African-American Fine Art catalogue.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Smithsonian American Art Museum: Highlights from Art Inventories Catalog

Over the past years, I have become familiar with the breadth and scope of the Smithsonian Institution, and have worked extensively with the rich holdings that are a part of the Smithsonian American Art/National Portrait Gallery (AA/PG) Library, particularly delving into its books, catalogues, and ephemeral collections. As a whole, this institution is essential because of its role in identifying, collecting, and making materials accessible not only for their staff, but for researchers, appraisers, students, artists, the layman, and other interested individuals from across the country, and on an international level. Through their art collections, archival materials, and print collections, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and its various support units play a crucial role in documenting African American artists in the broader context of American art. Simply, the breadth and depth of their collections serve as a resource, either documenting African Americans as a subject or the contributions of African American artists. They do not stand alone in this effort, but this post focuses on the highlights from one of The Smithsonian American Art Museum's research databases-- "the Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture which provides descriptive data on over 400,000 art works done by artists born or working in this country."

"The Inventory of American Paintings includes works by artists who were active in America by 1914. The Inventory of American Sculpture has no cut-off date and includes works from the colonial era through contemporary times. These online databases are supplemented by a photographic collection of over 80,000 images."   This database includes African American highlights that may be seen at the following link: Art Inventories Catalog of Smithsonian American Art Museum.

In an upcoming post, I will feature the results from an on-going and extensive project that I have been involved with at the AA/PG Library's vertical file, a rich ephemeral resource. This project has been directly related to African American artists and their inclusion in the vertical file collection of the Smithsonian American Art/National Portrait Gallery Library.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Supporting African American Art and Artists: Museum Special Interest Groups (Addendum)

This is an update to a previous blog post from August 13, 2010, focusing on ways in which the general public can support and serve as advocates for African American art and artists within "mainstream art museums". Since that initial post, five additional museums have been identified that have friends/affiliate groups with an African American focus.

If you are one who who has a strong interest in works produced by African American artists, in preserving works by these artists, and continuing a legacy where these works exist for the general public, then you might be interested in supporting institutions and causes that are important to your beliefs and values. One way to get involved is to join an affiliate group or even serve as a volunteer at one of the institutions. As it relates to art organizations, even the smallest contributions are a vital part of the fundraising landscape, and assures that you are a part of a philanthropic effort to support museums, assuring that there is a continual documentation and appreciation of the fine arts. 

Membership and dues to these various affiliate groups are for one year and are in addition to base membership categories.

Augusta, Georgia
Morris Museum of Art

Friends of African American Art is an affiliate group of the Morris Museum of Art; its focus is to promote a "deeper understanding and appreciation of the contributions of African Americans to the culture of the South by providing social events and educational programs and involving members in the continuing growth of the museum's collection". 

Baltimore, Maryland
Baltimore Museum of Art

Joshua Johnson Council (JJC) was founded in 1984 and is one of the oldest African American museum support groups in the country. "Named after an 18th-century African American portrait painter who lived and worked in Maryland, its mission is to forge meaningful connections between Baltimore's African American communities and the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA). JJC strengthens the BMA's presence in these communities by promoting and highlighting the achievements of African American artists."

Charlotte, North Carolina
Mint Museum

As one of the affiliate groups at the Mint Museum, The Romare Bearden Society has as one of its key goals "to support and grow The Mint Museum’s permanent collections of African American contemporary art through educational, outreach and social programs, with a particular focus on the works of African American, Charlotte-born artist Romare Bearden." Other goals are to enhance, to further engage, to honor, and to collaborate. See details at Join a Group.

Columbia, South Carolina
Columbia Museum of Art 

Friends of African American Art and Culture (FAAAC) is a membership affiliate group at Columbia Museum of Art. Its diverse membership is across genders, ethnicities, and ages, sharing their common focus for an appreciation of artistic and cultural contributions of African Americans.

According to the current FAAAC president, Brandolyn Thomas Pinkston, "our board is eager to partner with the Columbia Museum of Art to pursue our goals by providing a multitude of programs, lectures and exhibits."

New York, New York
The Museum of Modern Art  (MoMA)

The mission of The Friends of Education of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is "to foster a greater appreciation of art created by African American artists and to encourage African American participation and membership at MoMA." This group was founded in 1993 and membership is by invitation only.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Collecting Fine Art: A Time in History

"In early 1928, Archibald Motley scored a commercial success at a New York gallery, selling twenty-two (22) of the twenty-six (26) canvases exhibited for a profit of around sixty-five thousand dollars ($65,000)." This statement has been a recurring thought since I read it a few weeks ago in The Life, Art, and Times of Joseph Delaney, 1904- 1991 by Frederick C. Moffatt (The University of Tennessee Press, 2009). Although the statement does not directly relate to Joseph Delaney, it does speak to the art scene in Chicago in the mid-1920s   and demonstrates how the "Chicago Art Institute had become a magnet for promising African American artists, including William M. Farrow, Charles C. Dawson, Archibald J. Motley, Jr., Richmond Barthé, Ellis Wilson, Alice Evans, Pauline Callis, [and others]...." Also, worth noting is the fact that in 1925, "an association led by Farrow and Dawson founded the Chicago Art League for the purpose of disproving a prevailing white conviction that insisted people of color were incapable of creating art." Joseph Delaney was in Chicago during this time period and lived there for four years, 1925-1928.

Another reference to Motley's New York exhibit of 1928 was mentioned in an exhibition review (Studio Museum in Harlem) written by  Michael Kimmelman and appeared in the New York Times (April 17, 1992), "Motley honed his skills as a student at the Art Institute of Chicago. He slowly developed a reputation, exhibiting his work in group shows at the institute and by the mid-20's in and around New York City. In 1928 he had what was to be his biggest success, when the New Gallery (George Hellman, president of gallery) on Madison Avenue displayed 26 of his paintings, including portraits, genre scenes and five works that focused on African themes."

In order for me to  clearly understand what $65,000 represented in 1928, I needed to translate that dollar amount into contemporary market dollars. Using an online calculator that factors in the inflation rate over the years, it was determined that $65,000 (1928) is approximately $819,538 in 2010 dollars; 2010 was the latest update for the calculator used. This dollar amount simply reflects dollar value for the time period in question, and does not take into consideration the appreciated value of the 22 piece of art over the past 82 years.

As I reflect on African American art, and its monetary value in today's market, I wonder what would be the current day value of Motley's 22 pieces of art. How much have they appreciated? How is that value determined? Are there instruments that appropriate value of an artist's works when there may not be a long and substantially strong auction history? Is fine art an investment class? Because art is extremely vulnerable to fluctuations, particularly in taste, doesn't this make it a high- risk, speculative investment? If art were used to diversify a portfolio, what percent of the value should include fine art? What is investment-quality art (as it relates to African American art) and is it available to the small collector?

On a personal level, I am still of the persuasion that the profit potential of collecting art is a secondary consideration. Regardless of the collecting model or areas of concentration, the primary purpose is that you like the art, and feel comfortable living with it. Then, the artwork becomes a statement of the collector's taste. In spite of my personal beliefs, there is a growing segment of collectors who believe and operate on the premise that collecting fine art has investment potential, and serves as an alternative investment tool within a portfolio. As I read more about art collecting as an alternative investment, I will share articles via Twitter @blackartproject.  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Select Art Exhibitions: Highlights for Spring 2012

This highlight features a few exhibitions that open this spring (second quarter of 2012). Presenting the exhibitions as they approach their opening dates assures a freshness and currency of information for the visual art enthusiasts. For a more comprehensive coverage of ongoing exhibitions in 2012, look to the right sidebar of the blog. This sidebar is updated on a weekly basis by either adding newly discovered exhibitions or removing those that are closely approaching their expiration date. Because a number of important traveling exhibitions from previous months are still on tour in 2012, they are not featured in these highlights; however, they are accessible from the sidebar.

Black Art Project (BAP) welcomes any information or leads that you might have relating to Black art exhibitions, particularly regional exhibitions that are not traditionally marketed on a national scale. BAP will verify the accuracy of any information submitted. Thank you for any assistance that you provide.

Brooklyn, New York
Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art

The Box That Rocks: 30 Years of Video Music Box and the Rise of Hip Hop Music and Culture is an exhibition of contemporary art that celebrates the global influence of Video Music Box, and the show’s historic contribution to urban music and culture. The exhibition features photography, painting, mixed-media, video installation, and interactive digital art. 

The Box That Rocks will be on view at MoCADA through May 28, 2012.  

Boston, Massachusetts
Boston University, Sherman Gallery

Tony Gray
 Tony Gray: The Panther Series is on view at the Sherman Gallery, School of Visual Arts at Boston University. "This solo exhibition presents recent work and continuations of ongoing series in which Gray explores representations of African American men and women in popular culture and mass media. Through painting and mixed-media works on paper, Gray presents an Afro-centric worldview through which to address social and racial issues."

 The Panther Series will be on view through May 20, 2012.

Chicago, Illinois

Rashid Johnson, Death by Black Hole: The Crisis,
2010, Steel, black soap, wax, books,
shea butter, plant, space rocks,
mirror, gold paint, stained wood,
96 1/2 x 76 1/4 x 30 in.,
Courtesy Gagosian Gallery,
Image courtesy of the artist
and David Kordansky Gallery,
Los Angeles, CA

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents Rashid Johnson’s first major solo museum exhibition, Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks, which will survey the first ten years of his career. This exhibition of the Chicago-born artist "opens up a dialogue with historically important figures ranging from W. E. B. DuBois and Sun Ra to Miles Davis and Public Enemy. The title of the exhibition is taken from a 1969 album by avant-garde musicians Art Ensemble of Chicago, who performed with a variety of percussive found objects, spanning musical styles to radically redefine the rules of jazz. Inspired by their message, Johnson pays homage to these creative pioneers of his hometown and channels their nonconformist vision for his generation of artists."

Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks will be on view April 14 - August 5, 2012. A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition. 

Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

The Soul of a City: Memphis Collects African American Art will be on view at Brooks Museum of Art from June 9 - September 2, 2012. This exhibition puts its hand on the pulse of collecting in Memphis, highlighting the variety of paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, and mixed media works from the 20th and 21st centuries in both private and public collections.

Santa Monica, California

Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe is the first major solo museum exhibition for the artist. It opens at the Santa Monica Museum of Art on April 14 and will be on view through August 19, 2012.

Mikalene Thomas, Qusuquzah, Une Très
 Belle Négresse #3, 2012, Rhinestones, acrylic,
oil, and enamel on wood panel, 96" x 80",
Courtesy of the artist, Lehmann Maupin Gallery,
New York, and Susanne Vielmetter,
Los Angeles
 In Origin of the Universe, Thomas "introduces a new model of trans-generational female empowerment as she explores interior and exterior environments in relation to the female figure. The exhibition consists of 15 works in a variety of sizes and media that examine art historical constructs of feminine identity, sexuality, beauty, and power.

Origin of the Universe will travel to the Brooklyn Museum from September 28, 2012 to January 20, 2013. A full-color, illustrated catalog accompanies the exhibition.   

Washington, DC

African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond consists of 100 artworks by forty-three Black artists that are from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s rich collection of African American art.
The artists, working in various styles, address a diverse array of subjects. Their artworks present a vision of America from an African American perspective.

Some of the artists included in African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond are as follows: Benny Andrews, Richmond Barthé, Romare Bearden, Roy DeCarava, Thornton Dial, Sr., Melvin Edwards, Roland Freeman, Sargent Johnson, Loïs Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, Robert McNeill, Marilyn Nance, Gordon Parks, James Porter, Alma Thomas, and others. This exhibition is a part of the Smithsonian's Traveling Exhibition Program, and will be on tour at other museums through the coming years. "More than half of the featured works...are being exhibited and circulated by the museum for the first time, and ten works are recent acquisitions." 

African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond will be on view, 1st floor West, American Art Museum, from April 27 - September 3, 2012. A catalogue accompanies this exhibition.

NOTE: For a more comprehensive coverage of ongoing exhibitions in 2012, look to the right sidebar of this blog. Remember, this sidebar is updated on a weekly basis.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Swann Galleries: Printed and Manuscript African Americana, Sale 2271

Swann Auction Galleries' Printed and Manuscript African Americana Sale was held on March 1, 2012, bringing in $986,054 with buyer's premium, and selling approximately 74% of the 534 lots. The number of lots in this most recent sale was approximately 25% larger than each of the previous sales over the past ten (10) years. This is an encouraging sign that consignors are comfortably on board with the auction process and possibly see benefits to selling.

This 17th annual auction offered a wide range of materials that were grouped into broad subject areas that included, but was not limited to the following categories: slavery and abolition, civil rights, black power, Africa, art, Black Panthers, education, Marcus Garvey, literature and poetry, military, music and more.     

Wyatt Houston Day, Swann African Americana specialist, said "Yesterday's sale was the most successful auction of African Americana that Swann has ever had. We are pleased to see so much important historical material acquired by institutions." As I reviewed the results of Sale 2271, I agree with Wyatt and find satisfaction in knowing that this important historical material has been acquired by institutions. In an environment, such as a museum, an archive, an historical and culture center, and the like, there are basic expectations that the materials will be properly cared for, will be available for researchers, and will be accessible to the general public through exhibitions. 

The following are a few examples of the lots that were acquired by institutions. In all instances, except lot 294 (Alain Locke), these items were among the top lots that sold.

Lot 296: Dorothy Porter Wesley Papers

This archive of writings, consisted of "research notes and in many cases original 19th and 20th century manuscript and or documentary material for her numerous articles, and books, together with her correspondence files, including retained copies (in some instances) of her letters, with books and ephemera." There were 85 cartons that had an auction estimate of $50,000 - 75,000. Lot 296 was the second highest selling lot and sold for $43,200 with buyer's premium. In 2010, James Amos Porter's African-American Art History Reference Archive, Dorothy Porter's husband, was auctioned in Sale 2204 and acquired by Emory University

Lot 262: Ida B. Wells

A first edition of A Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynchings in the United States (1895) far surpassed its high estimate of $6,000 and sold for $25,200. Described in the catalogue description as the utmost rarity; "there are only three copies of A Red Record located in American institutions; others listed are on microfiche."  For a detailed overview of this item, see Lot 262.

Lot 523: Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters

This scarce representative collection of Pullman Porter memorabilia, dating from the turn of the 20th Century through the 1950s, had a high estimate of $2,500; however, it sold for $20,400 with buyer's premium. The collection included an "original Pullman Railroad Platform step stool, a vintage Pullman Porter's cap with brass buttons, with the metal Pullman Porter tag attached to the front, a Pullman Company towel, the original booklet with the terms of agreement between the Pullman Company and their Porters, Attendants, Maids..., and other items. See details of Lot 523.

Lot 421: Tuskegee Airmen

This collection consisted of an album of 177 photographs from the Tuskegee Airmen (332nd Fighter Group) based in Italy. This exceptional collection of photographs includes many of Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. Most of the photographs were shot at Ramitelli Air Force base. It is worth noting that the lot had an auction estimate of $2,000 -3,000, and it sold for $19,200. Read and see more at Lot 421.

Lot 271: Race Riots

This small but rich archive of material consists of approximately 200 pieces, focusing on race riots, Red Summer of 1919 and the Elaine, Arkansas riot. "The term Red Summer was coined by NAACP activist, writer and poet James Weldon Johnson. It described the bloody race riots that erupted in over three dozen American cities during the long, hot summer of 1919."

Lot 271 had a high estimate of $8,000; however, it sold for $14,400 with buyer's premium. Read more of the Race Riots archive.

Lot 294: Alain Locke on Black Studies 

Although this lot did not reach its low estimate of $3,000, its value is of significance because its contents, totaling 16 pages, proposes a Black Studies Department at Howard University in 1913. This places Locke ahead of the curve in suggesting the establishment of a Black Studies curriculum at an academic institution. Locke's vision was the guiding light for the establishment of what is today The Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University. According to the catalogue description of this lot, "these five documents follow the establishment and progress of the Founders Library at Howard University. The first part is a letter, addressed to the Board of Trustees, dated February 3, 1913, outlining in five points how and why a Negro-Americana Library and Studies Department should be set up at the school." Lot 294 sold for $2,880. 

For those of us who are art enthusiasts, it is worth noting that the highest selling lot in Sale 2271, was in the art category. The Slaves, Lot 106, is a rare contemporary copy of an iconic image which is "one of several notable images produced during the period of intense activism to abolish slavery in the West Indies." This painting was in the personal collection of artist Merton Simpson, and was acquired by a collector for $72,000. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sonya Clark: Artist Talk

The theme of this post may be stated quite simply. It grew out of a sense to understand the artist, Sonya Clark, and the motivating force behind her work: purpose, drive, discovery and the like. Sonya was trained in the fiber arts. She weaves ideas and symbols into her thought provoking and demanding works of art which are created from ordinary objects/things (hair, combs, yarn, coins, a piece of cloth). These objects evolve into fresh, different, and creative works of art that fascinate me in their recreated sculptural forms. According to Sonya, our individual and collective stories are held in the object; "I work in series to reframe the object as a mediated compilation of our stories. In this way, the everyday thing becomes a lens through which we may better see one another."  

For the past few years, I have kept up with Sonya Clark through her monthly email updates and from reading various catalogues purchased during this period. However, about two weeks ago, I had an opportunity to personally meet and speak briefly with her at the opening reception of NEXT Generation exhibition at Contemporary Wing (Washington, DC). For me, this was an exciting and positive experience.... 

This Artist Talk resulted from an exhibition,The Global Africa Project, at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD, New York) last year. The Global Africa Project surveyed the rich pool of new talent emerging from the African continent and its influence on artists around the world.  

Mixed-Media Sculpture        Questions         Call and Response
Ancestry       Hair        Combs         Material Culture
Roots        Influence   

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Select Art Exhibitions: Highlights for 2012

This begins the ninth year that the Black Art Project has presented on a national scale art exhibitions of artists of African descent. This post will simply highlight a few of those exhibitions that will have an opening date during the first quarter of 2012. Quarterly posts will follow, featuring subsequent exhibitions, as they approach their opening dates. These quarterly posts will assure a freshness and currency of information for the exhibition aficionado. Because this post is simply a highlight, look to the right sidebar of the blog for a more comprehensive feature of exhibitions in 2012. This sidebar is updated on a weekly basis by either adding newly discovered exhibitions or removing those that are closely approaching their expiration date.  

A number of important traveling exhibitions from the previous year are still on tour in 2012. Although they are not featured in these highlights, they are accessible from the sidebar. 

Black Art Project (BAP) welcomes any information or leads that you might have relating to Black art exhibitions, particularly regional exhibitions that are not traditionally marketed on a national scale. BAP will verify the accuracy of any information submitted. Thank you for any assistance that you provide.

Atlanta, Georgia

Bill Traylor, Untitled, ca 1939 - 1942,
Poster paint and pencil on cardboard,
11¾" x 7¾", High Museum of Art, Purchase
with funds from Mrs. Lindsay Hopkins, Jr.,
Edith G. and Philip Rhodes,
and the Members Guild

This traveling exhibition, Bill Traylor: Drawings from the Collections of the High Museum of Art and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, premieres at the High Museum of Art on February 5, 2012 and will be on view through May 13, 2012. The exhibition, featuring more than 60 works drawn from both collections, highlights some of the best examples of Traylor's work that is rarely seen outside of the southeastern United States. Bill Traylor "features representative works from Traylor's various genres, including human and animal figures and depictions of his memories of plantation life."

William Traylor was born into slavery sometime between 1852 and 1856, and he died in 1949. The artist began drawing when he was eighty-five years old, and produced more than 1,200 drawings within the next decade of his life. Traylor’s work has been represented in at least 30 solo exhibitions and 85 group shows since the late 1970s.  

Chapel Hill, North Carolina
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Thornton Dial: Thoughts on Paper is on view March 30 - July 1, 2012 at the Ackland Art Museum. Thornton Dial's drawings are his most prolific body of work, and this exhibition features 50 of his earliest drawings from 1990-1991 which is defined as a pivotal moment in his artistic career. "The works in the exhibition - characterized by flowing lines, color washes, and images of women, fish, and tigers - provide a touchstone of Dial's creative process."

Thornton Dial is most recognized for his large scale, multi-media assemblages, as was reflected in two recent exhibitions: Thornton Dial: Disaster Areas (Bill Lowe Gallery, 2011) and Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial (Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2011). This current exhibition, at the Ackland Museum of Art, provides an opportunity for the viewer to explore the drawings, which are a lesser known but important portion of Dial's oeuvre.

A fully-illustrated catalogue accompanies Thornton Dial: Thoughts on Paper.

Charlotte, North Carolina
African-American Arts and Culture

James Phillips, jitterbug Waltz Series: CT,
Acrylic on paper, 30" x 40"

Rhythm-A-Ning: James Phillips, Charles Searles and Frank Smith is on view through June 30, 2012 at the Harvey B. Gantt Center. Works by the three artists featured in this exhibition "visually reflect the qualities and characteristics of jazz. Each artist - in his own way - has improvised with color , rhythm, patterns, and forms to abstractly produce work which can soar and challenge...."

  Montgomery, Alabama

Mose Tolliver (Mose T), Model T with creature,
Acrylic on plywood

Paintings by Mose Tolliver will be on view through March 4, 2012 at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. This exhibition includes a selection of the twenty-six paintings from the 1970s to the 1990s that are owned by the Museum. 

Mose Tolliver, who is usually referred to Mose T, was one of Montgomery’s most prolific and best-known self-taught artists.  "The subjects of Tolliver’s paintings were largely established by the early 1980s, and included first birds, then animals, people, and fantastic creatures that were products of his vivid imagination.  Unable to stand without crutches due to an industrial accident in the 1960s, he usually painted small works that could be supported on his lap, or laid flat on the floor."

Newark, Delaware
University of Delaware
University Museums

Barkley L. Hendricks, Iconic Dexter,
2008/9, Archival pigment inkjet, 60" x 42",
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery,
New York
Magical Visions: Ten Contemporary African American Artists is on view February 1 - June 29, 2012 in Mechanical Hall at the University of Delaware / University Museums. This exhibition brings together the work "of artists who have pioneered significant changes in media, including assemblage, fiber, painting, photography, printmaking, quiltmaking, and sculpture to video with performance." The following artists are included in Magical Visions...: Terry Adkins, Sonya Clark, Melvin Edwards, Sam Gilliam, Barkley L. Hendricks, Kalup Linzy, Odili Odata, Karen Olivier, Faith Ringgold, and Williams T. Williams. 

There will be an opening reception with Guest Curator Keith Morrison on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 from 5 – 6:30 pm. Please RSVP at or 302/ 831-8037. 

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA)
Samuel M. V. Hamilton Building

Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit is on view January 28 - April 15, 2012 in the Samuel M. V. Hamilton Building, Fisher Brooks Gallery at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. This much anticipated and long awaited exhibition will elevate Tanner's reputation through scholarship and bring his works together for the first time in a generation.

Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Seine, Looking
Toward Notre Dame, 1896, Oil on canvas,
14 7/8" x 20 1/8", Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld
Gallery, LLC, New York, NY
Henry Ossawa Tanner... focuses on the career and life of the artist that includes "the pioneering African-American artist’s upbringing in Philadelphia in the years after the Civil War; the artist’s success as an American expatriate artist at the highest levels of the international art world at the turn of the 20th century; Tanner’s role as a leader of an artist’s colony in rural France and his unique contributions in aid of American servicemen to the Red Cross efforts in WWI France; his modernist invigoration of religious painting deeply rooted in his own faith; Tanner’s depictions of the Holy Land and North Africa interpreted through comparison with contemporary French orientalist painting and photography; and the scientific and technical innovations of the artist’s oeuvre."

A catalogue accompanies this traveling exhibition. See gallery images and letters from the PAFA Archives; and Henry Ossawa Papers at the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution: Archives

For information regarding the reception and ticket(s) to view the exhibition, see: event

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Samuel M. V. Hamilton Building

After Henry Tanner: African American Artists since 1940 is on view January 28 - April 15, 2012. This exhibition is a permanent collection installation drawn from PAFA's examples of work by African American artists. After Henry Tanner complements the Tanner retrospective and speaks to Tanner's enduring legacy for artists working today. 

NOTE:  Take a look at the right sidebar of the BAP blog for a more comprehensive listing of exhibitions in 2012; over 60 exhibitions are currently featured. Enjoy!