Release Date: February 4, 2014

National Gallery Celebrates African American History Month in February with an Array of Programs

imageoftheblack-lrg

David Bindman, emeritus professor of the history of art, University College London, appears in conversation with David C. Driskell, artist, collector, curator, and emeritus professor of art history, University of Maryland at College Park; Ruth Fine, curator (1972–2012), National Gallery of Art; Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University; Richard J. Powell, John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art and Art History, Duke University; and Sharmila Sen, executive editor-at-large, Harvard University Press., moderated by Faya Causey, to discuss The Image of the Black in Western Art: The 20th Century: The Impact of Africa on Sunday, February 23, at the National Gallery of Art in honor of African American History Month. A book signing of The Image of the Black in Western Art: The 20th Century: The Impact of Africa (vol. 5, part 1) follows.

Washington, DC—In February, the National Gallery of Art celebrates African American history, art, music, and culture with a film, a concert, a special dramatic performance, lectures, podcasts, and offerings in the Gallery Shops.

The Gallery-produced film The Art of Romare Bearden, produced on the occasion of the 2003 exhibition The Art of Romare Bearden, screens throughout the month. Narrated by Morgan Freeman with readings by Danny Glover, the film provides an overview of the arc of Bearden’s career.

On February 9, Ruth Fine discusses the collecting of African American art in a conversation with collector Rodney Merritt Miller. On February 23, a panel discussion—featuring David Bindman, David C. Driskell, Ruth Fine, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Richard J. Powell, and Sharmila Sen—is moderated Faya Causey. A book signing of The Image of the Black in Western Art: The 20th Century: The Impact of Africa follows the lecture. Collector Kenneth Montague appears in conversation with curator Trevor Schoonmaker and collection manager Maria Kanellopoulos to discuss the Wedge Collection on March 9.

Additional programming includes a concert on February 23 with Louise Toppin and Leon Bates performing spirituals and other music by African American composers, commemorating the 75th anniversary of Marian Anderson’s famous concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. On February 23, the play Forward, 54th! highlights several characters from the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment, one of the first regiments of African Americans formed during the Civil War.

All programs are free of charge in the East Building Auditorium unless otherwise noted. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Works of Art on View

The Gallery's collection of American art includes nearly 400 works by African American artists, including Robert Seldon Duncanson's Still Life with Fruit (1848); Joshua Johnson’s The Westwood Children (c. 1807); and Henry Ossawa Tanner's The Seine (c. 1902), all of which are currently on view in the West Building’s American Galleries. Also on view is Charles Ethan Porter’s Cherries (c. 1885), currently on extended loan to the Gallery.

Film Event

The Art of Romare Bearden
February 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 26 and 27, 12:30 p.m.
This film traces Bearden's entire career, including his paintings and watercolors of the 1940s, experimental collages of 1964, mature collages of the next two decades, large-scale public murals, and late landscapes. The documentary also features commentary by art historians, artists, and others who knew Bearden, including Wynton Marsalis, Albert Murray, and Emma Amos. Narrated by Morgan Freeman with readings by Danny Glover. Produced by the department of exhibition programs, National Gallery of Art, Washington, on the occasion of the exhibition The Art of Romare Bearden (2003).

Lectures

The Collecting of African American Art X: Rodney Merritt Miller: Reflections on Collecting
Sunday, February 9, 2:00 p.m.
Ruth Fine, curator (1972–2012), National Gallery of Art, and Rodney Merritt Miller, collector

Image of the Black in Western Art, Part III
Sunday, February 23, 2:00 p.m.
Panel discussion includes David Bindman, emeritus professor of the history of art, University College London; David C. Driskell, artist, collector, curator, and emeritus professor of art history, University of Maryland at College Park; Ruth Fine, curator (1972–2012), National Gallery of Art; Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University; Richard J. Powell, John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art and Art History, Duke University; and Sharmila Sen, executive editor-at-large, Harvard University Press. Moderated by Faya Causey, head of academic programs, National Gallery of Art. Book signing of Image of the Black in Western Art: The 20th Century: The Impact of Africa (vol. 5, part 1) follows.

The Collecting of African American Art XI: The Wedge Collection: Kenneth Montague in Conversation with Trevor Schoonmaker
Sunday, March 9, 2:00 p.m.
Maria Kanellopoulos, collection-manager and exhibition coordinator, Wedge Curatorial Projects; Kenneth Montague, collector, curator, and director, Wedge Curatorial Projects; and Trevor Schoonmaker, chief curator and Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Curator of Contemporary Art, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

Concert

Louise Toppin, soprano
Leon Bates, pianist

Sunday, February 23, 6:30 p.m.
Spirituals and other music by African American composers
Celebrating the 75th anniversary of Marian Anderson’s historic 1939 concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial

Dramatic Performance

Forward, 54th!
February 2 and 23, noon and 1:30 p.m.
West Building, East Garden Court
On the most important day in the life of the young drummer boy Alex Johnson, a member of the proud 54th Massachusetts Volunteers, he was ready to drum the regiment into battle—but his colonel ordered him to "fall back." Forward, 54th! presents Alex's search to fill in the missing images (“the pictures that I take when my eyes look deep”) from the day that changed the history of the American Civil War. Alex's quest brings three figures from history to life: the brave Sergeant William H. Carney, resourceful Susie King Taylor, and Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. Through interweaving monologues and live Civil War–era music, this dramatic interpretation honors the rich stories behind the people and events remembered in Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Shaw Memorial. Approximately 30 minutes.

Gallery Shops

The Gallery's collection of American art includes nearly 400 works by African American artists. The Gallery Shops offer an assortment of books and items that provide perspective on African American history, identity, and culture. View the web store at: shop.nga.gov/category/African-American/Specialty/African-American-Art/1.html

Audio Podcasts to Be Released in February and March 2014

Climbing and Clarifying: The Genius of Jacob Lawrence
Richard J. Powell, assistant professor, department of art and art history, Duke University (March 22, 1992); John Spencer Bassett professor, department of art, art history, and visual studies, Duke University (February 4, 2014)
In advance of the publication of his book Jacob Lawrence, Powell shares the aesthetic and cultural inquiries that contributed to a more meaningful study of this important artist. Jacob Lawrence (1917–2000) received unprecedented acclaim for an African American artist in the 20th century. The standard conclusion that this unique status resulted from an ideological triumvirate of caste, class, and race fails to appreciate Lawrence’s artistic motivations and choices. In this lecture recorded at the National Gallery of Art on March 22, 1992, Powell explains that his investigation into Lawrence’s life yields a universe of emblems, motifs, and symbols that cannot be reduced to some purely racial or social formula. The motif of steps—recurrent images of ladders, brownstone stoops, and fire escapes—is not a visual trope or random inclusion of environmental observations. The steps embrace a world of allusions to ascension and climbing. Lawrence’s documentation of significant historic events and moments of individual struggle and perseverance creates an art of social realism. His definitions of events and people at their most historic and human levels clarify their meanings. Powell believes that this climbing and clarifying represents the genius of Jacob Lawrence.
(original program date: 3/22/92; podcast release date 2/04/14)

The Collecting of African American Art X: Rodney Merritt Miller: Reflections on Collecting
Ruth Fine, curator (1972–2012), National Gallery of Art, and Rodney Merritt Miller, collector
In this conversation recorded on February 9, 2014, as part of the series The Collecting of African American Art at the National Gallery of Art, Ruth Fine and Rodney Merritt Miller discuss his collection in all of its aspects—starting with his early interest in art to the development of his diverse interactions with contemporary artists, curators, and dealers. Miller explains the important effect that art has in chronicling and providing a more complete view of society.
(original program date: 2/09/14; podcast release date 2/18/14)

Image of the Black in Western Art, Part III
Panel discussion includes David Bindman, emeritus professor of the history of art, University College London; David C. Driskell, artist, collector, curator, and emeritus professor of art history, University of Maryland at College Park; Ruth Fine, curator (1972–2012), National Gallery of Art; Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University; Richard J. Powell, John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art and Art History, Duke University; and Sharmila Sen, executive editor-at-large, Harvard University Press.
In the 1960s, art collector and philanthropist Dominique de Menil began a research project and photo archive called The Image of the Black in Western Art. Through the collaboration of Harvard University Press and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, the project nears its completion. This panel discussion commemorates the publication of the penultimate volume of the series, The Image of the Black in Western Art, Volume V: The 20th Century, Part 1: The Impact of Africa. The last two volumes in the series mark the 20th-century transition from the depiction of people of African descent by others to their self-representation in the United States and elsewhere. In this program recorded on February 23, 2014, at the National Gallery of Art, the panelists discuss the implications of this dramatic shift in the emphasis of the volumes.
(original program date: 2/23/14; podcast release date 2/25/14)

The Collecting of African American Art XI: The Wedge Collection: Kenneth Montague in Conversation with Trevor Schoonmaker
Maria Kanellopoulos, collection manager and exhibition coordinator, Wedge Curatorial Projects; Kenneth Montague, collector, curator, and director, Wedge Curatorial Projects; and Trevor Schoonmaker, chief curator and Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Curator of Contemporary Art, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
(original program date: 3/9/14; podcast release date 3/11/14)

Video Podcasts to be Released in Early 2014

kerry james marshall | nga
On October 27, 2013, Kerry James Marshall discusses his painting Great America (1994), acquired in 2011 as a gift of the Collectors Committee of the National Gallery of Art, and featured centrally in the exhibition In the Tower: Kerry James Marshall (June 28–December 8, 2013). One of the most celebrated painters currently working in the United States, Marshall explores through his work the experiences of African Americans and the narratives of American history that have often excluded black people. In Great America, Marshall represents the Middle Passage as a haunted theme park ride, indirectly suggesting instead of specifically depicting the slave trade. The Middle Passage was the middle leg of the triangular trade of manufactured goods, crops, and human cargo between Europe, Africa, and the Americas during the colonial era and lasting until the 1850s. Drawing upon the artist’s prodigious knowledge of art history and the African diaspora, Marshall’s paintings combine figurative and abstract styles and multiple allusions, drawing from “high” and “low” sources. In Marshall’s art the past is never truly past: history exerts a constant, often unconscious pressure on the living. The interview followed Marshall’s participation in a panel discussion titled Making It: Race and Class in Contemporary America, held on the occasion of the artist’s In the Tower exhibition.
(interview date: 10/27/13; video release date: 2/4/14)

Conversations with Artists: Kerry James Marshall
Kerry James Marshall has exhibited widely both in the United States and abroad and has received a MacArthur Fellowship, among other honors. In this conversation recorded on June 26, 2013, Kerry James Marshall and James Meyer, associate curator of modern art, discuss the works and themes of In the Tower: Kerry James Marshall, on view at the Gallery from June 28 to December 7, 2013.
(original program date: 6/26/13; video release date: 2/11/14)

The Collecting of African American Art IX: Collecting Black: An Anachronism
Darryl Atwell, a collector based in Washington, DC, has been acquiring works by artists of the African diaspora for the last eight years. His conversation with Jeffreen M. Hayes, Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow in African American Art at the Birmingham Museum of Art, was recorded on November 18, 2012, as part of the National Gallery of Art lecture series The Collecting of African American Art, provides an overview of Atwell's important collection. They also discuss the collecting of African American art by others and the rise of contemporary African American artists. Hayes is a scholar whose research interests are African American visual culture, contemporary representations of race, and art museums.
(original program date: 11/18/12; video release date: March 2014)

julie mehretu | nga
On November 17, 2013, Julie Mehretu discusses her career and artistic process, which can be seen firsthand in two prints—Circulation and Circulation (working proof 9)— in the exhibition Yes, No, Maybe: Artists Working at Crown Point Press at the National Gallery of Art from September 1, 2013 to January 5, 2014. Representing 25 artists, the exhibition features 125 working proofs and edition prints produced between 1972 and 2010 at Crown Point Press in San Francisco, one of the most influential printmaking studios of the last half century. Mehretu has completed collaborative projects at professional printmaking studios across the United States, among them Crown Point Press and Gemini G.E.L in Los Angeles. Mehretu is best known for large-scale, densely packed paintings that combine meticulous rendering and seemingly spontaneous abstract gesture. Her work, including drawings and prints, is built up from multiple layers of archival, geographical, meteorological, and architectural imagery—designs, plans, diagrams, blueprints, ruins, charts, and graphs—traced and punctuated with calligraphic marks and obscuring erasures. The interview precedes Mehretu’s participation in the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Lecture Series.
(interview date: 11/17/13; video release date: April 2014)

Diamonstein-Spielvogel Lecture Series: Julie Mehretu
Mehretu has completed collaborative projects at professional printmaking studios across the United States, among them Gemini G.E.L in Los Angeles and Crown Point Press in San Francisco. For the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Lecture Series, Mehretu joined Judith Brodie, curator and head of modern prints and drawings, on November 17, 2013, to discuss her career and artistic process, visible in two prints—Circulation, in the Gallery’s collection, and Circulation (working proof 9)—on view September 1, 2013, through January 5, 2014, in the exhibition Yes, No, Maybe: Artists Working at Crown Point Press.
(original program date: 11/17/13; video release date: April 2014)

2013 Program Podcasts

glenn ligon | nga
In this talk recorded on March 15, 2013, Glenn Ligon discusses the layers of history, meaning, and physical material of three of his works in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Art. The painting Untitled (I Am a Man)—acquired in 2012 through the Patrons' Permanent Fund and as a gift of the artist—and a pair of prints, Condition Report (2000), also given by the artist,  served as the inspiration for this interview. The painted neon sculpture Double America (2012), gift of Agnes Gund, is also featured. The interview followed Ligon’s presentation of the 20th annual Elson Lecture, A Conversation with Glenn Ligon.
http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/audio-video/video/glenn-ligon.html

Elson Lecture 2013: A Conversation with Glenn Ligon
Glenn Ligon’s intertextual works examine cultural and social identity—often through found sources such as literature, Afrocentric coloring books, and photographs—to reveal the ways in which slavery, the civil rights movement, and identity politics inform our understanding of American society. In 2012, the Gallery acquired its first painting by Ligon, Untitled (I Am a Man) (1988). In honor of this acquisition, Ligon presented the 20th annual Elson Lecture on March 14, 2013, a conversation with associate curators of modern art Molly Donovan and James Meyer. Untitled (I Am a Man) is a reinterpretation of the signs carried by 1,300 striking African American sanitation workers in Memphis in 1968 and made famous in Ernest Withers' photographs of the march. Proclaiming "I Am a Man," the signs evoke Ralph Ellison's famous line—"I am an invisible man." Approximating the size of these signs, Ligon’s roughly made painting combines layers of history, meaning, and physical material in a dense, resonant object. As the first painting in which the artist appropriated text, it is a breakthrough. In subsequent works he would transform texts into fields of semilegible and masked meanings. The Gallery owns 16 works by Ligon, including a suite of etchings and a print portfolio.
http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/audio-video/video/elson-ligon.html

Conversations with Artists: Kerry James Marshall
Kerry James Marshall in conversation with James Meyer, associate curator of modern art, National Gallery of Art
In this program recorded on June 26, 2013, Marshall discusses the works and themes of his exhibition In the Tower: Kerry James Marshall, on view at the Gallery from June 28 to December 8, 2013.
http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/audio-video/audio/conversations-artists-marshall.html

Making It: Race and Class in Contemporary America
Panelists include Kerry James Marshall, artist; James Meyer, associate curator of modern art, National Gallery of Art; Mary Pattillo, Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and African American Studies, Northwestern University; Hortense J. Spillers, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor, English department, Vanderbilt University; Dan S. Wang, artist and writer.

The central theme of the exhibition In the Tower: Kerry James Marshall, on view through December 8, 2013, at the National Gallery of Art, is the Middle Passage—the violent journey of enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas during the colonial and antebellum periods—and its traumatic impact in the lives and memories of African Americans in particular. Marshall’s show begins with images of human beings and the open sea, of sailboats and an amusement-park water ride, evocative of the Middle Passage. Yet the exhibition also includes scenes of backyard pools, suburban lawns, and white picket fences, of children riding bikes and celebrating the Fourth of July. The memory of the slave ships seems remote from Marshall’s paintings of suburbs, part of the artist’s Housing series. In fact, all of these works examine the American Dream from an African American perspective: the middle-class children and adults depicted in these scenes are haunted by the memory of a trauma that they did not experience personally but which impacts them in ways that are not easily understood. In this program recorded on October 27, 2013, Kerry James Marshall and exhibition curator James Meyer are joined by panelists Mary Pattillo, Hortense J. Spillers, and Dan S. Wang to discuss varying perspectives on race and class in contemporary America.
http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/audio-video/audio/marshall-meyer.html

DJ Spooky: A Civil War Symphony
Paul D. Miller (a.k.a. DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid), composer, multimedia artist, writer, and DJ, accompanied by cellist Danielle Cho, violinist Jennifer Kim, and vocalist Rochelle Rice
In this performance recorded at the National Gallery of Art on November 24, 2013, Paul D. Miller (a.k.a. DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid) presents a composition for string ensemble with live-mixed electronic music and video. DJ Spooky: A Civil War Symphony, originally performed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, borrows images from the exhibition Tell It with Pride: The 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Shaw Memorial. On view September 15, 2013, through January 20, 2014, the exhibition considered the legacy of the 54th and the Battle of Fort Wagner in art, examining 19th-century efforts to memorialize those who fought, Saint-Gaudens’ Shaw Memorial itself, and the continuing inspiration that the regiment, its defining battle, and the Shaw Memorial have been for 20th- and 21st-century artists.
http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/audio-video/audio/djspooky.html

Special Online Features

The Collecting of African American Art
The Collecting of African American Art
lecture series focuses on distinguished private collections of African American art in the United States.
http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/audio-video/collecting-african-american-art.html

 

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