Landmark Exhibition of African-American Art to Tour the US

The show will appear at five museums across the country.

Norman Lewis, Afternoon (1969). Collection of Pamela Joyner. The Art Institute of Chicago. Photo courtesy Scott & Co.

A major exhibition of work created by African-American artists since 1940 will go on tour fall of this year, starting at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans. Titled “Solidary and Solitary: The Pamela J. Joyner and Alfred J. Giuffrida Collection,” it’s being touted as the “first large-scale public exhibition to bring together a vital lineage of visionary black artists.”

The traveling exhibition will focus on the power of abstract art, not merely as a stylistic mode, but as a political choice for generations of African-American artists. It’s a delicate balancing act of resisting imagery from a racist mainstream culture, and fighting to create positive representations of African Americans.

The show will feature art world heavy-hitters like Norman Lewis, Lorna Simpson, Theaster Gates, Kevin Beasley, Julie Mehretu, and Mark Bradford, who is representing the US at the Venice Biennale this year. It will also offer an in-depth perspective of several artists’ careers, including Norman Lewis, Serge Alain Nitegeka, Jennie C. Jones, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

Mark Bradford, No Time to Expand the Sea, 2014. Collection of Pamela Joyner, The Art Institute of Chicago. Photo courtesy Scott & Co.

The exhibition will open at the Ogden in the fall of 2017. After that, it will travel to the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina; the Snite Museum of Art at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana; and the Baltimore Museum of Art; before finally ending its run at the University of California, at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), in 2020. The cross-country tour, sponsored by the Helis Foundation, promises to offer a new perspective on the incredibly important contributions that black artists have made to art.

Curated by art historians Katy Siegel and Christopher Bedford, “Solidary and Solitary” is drawn from the collection of husband and wife Pamela Joyner and Alfred Giuffrida. The couple’s art collection of Post-War and contemporary work by artists of color was the subject of a book, Four Generations, The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection of Abstract Art, published in 2016.

Adam Pendleton, Pamela J. Joyner, and Franklin Sirmans at the Abstracted Black Tie Dinner Hosted by Pamela Joyner & Fred Giuffrida. Sean Zanni, © Patrick McMullan.

Adam Pendleton, Pamela J. Joyner, and Franklin Sirmans at the Abstracted Black Tie Dinner Hosted by Pamela Joyner & Fred Giuffrida. Sean Zanni, © Patrick McMullan.

The upcoming show’s title refers to the tension between the artist being solitary, a single artist making individual work, and the solidarity of a collective social identity of many African-American artists working collectively to represent themselves in the art world. Many of the issues this show addresses have been debated for decades, including the themes of social struggle and change, the African diaspora, migration, and the embodiment of blackness. According to the release, the exhibition hopes to be part of the movement “to address the blind spots in our shared cultural heritage”.

“It is essential that these histories be told,” said Siegel in a statement, “that the possibilities of individual achievement, collective identity and genuine, institutional social change be made vivid, concrete and beautiful.”

“Solidary and Solitary” will be on view at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, September 30, 2017–January 21, 2018; the Nasher Museum of Art, February 15–July 15, 2018; the Snite Museum of Art, August 20–November 25, 2018; the Baltimore Museum of Art, March–July 2019; and BAMPFA, August 2019–January 2020.

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