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June 07, 2021

2022 A. W. Mellon Lecturer Announced

Richard J. Powell

Richard J. Powell. Photo by Chester Higgins

Washington, DC—The Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art (the Center) has announced that Richard J. Powell, the John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art & Art History at Duke University, will give the 71st annual A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts in spring 2022.

Entitled Colorstruck! Painting, Pigment, Affect, the lecture series will be held in the East Building Auditorium at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, over six Sundays from March 20 to May 1, 2022.

Through works by Nina Chanel Abney, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sam Gilliam, Jacob Lawrence, Raymond Saunders, and Alma Thomas, Powell will explore the concept of "colorstruck," a 20th-century term addressing prejudice against darker complexions. Powell's lectures will examine how colors—chromatic interactions in paintings and the sociocultural dynamics of race—collide in unanticipated ways. Using blue, green, yellow, orange, black, red, brown, and their combinations as the main points of departure, this six-lecture series traces the visual and conceptual pathways of particular palettes. Powell will show that color does more than capture the viewer's attention; it assaults one's equilibrium, physically and socially. In the case of a community of painters for whom hue and pigmentation carry diverse associations, Powell sees color striking a chord for freedom and reclamation in art and life.

About the A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Art

Since 1949 the preeminent A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts have presented the best in contemporary thought and scholarship on the subject of the fine arts. The program itself is named for Andrew W. Mellon, founder of the National Gallery of Art, who gave the nation his art collection and funds to build the West Building, which opened to the public in 1941.

Past speakers have included Sir Kenneth Clark, T. J. Clark, Thomas Crow, Hal Foster, Michael Fried, E. H. Gombrich, Mary Miller, Alexander Nemerov, Helen Vendler, Irene J. Winter, Wu Hung, and, most recently, Jennifer L. Roberts. For a full list, visit https://www.nga.gov/research/casva/meetings/mellon-lectures-in-the-fine-arts.html.

About Richard J. Powell

A recognized authority on African American art and culture, Richard J. Powell has organized numerous art exhibitions, including Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist (2014); Back to Black: Art, Cinema, and the Racial Imaginary (2005); To Conserve A Legacy: American Art at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (1999); Rhapsodies in Black: Art of the Harlem Renaissance (1997); and The Blues Aesthetic: Black Culture and Modernism (1989). His curated exhibitions have been presented at major institutions including the Art Institute of Chicago, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, London's Whitechapel Gallery, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Powell is the John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art & Art History at Duke University, where he has taught since 1989. He received his BA at Morehouse College, followed by an MFA from Howard University. Powell completed a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in museum education at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and, after a brief teaching stint in Virginia, then entered Yale University, where he received an MA in African American Studies and an MPhil and PhD in the History of Art. While attending Yale, Powell was awarded a Fulbright scholarship, which enabled him to conduct dissertation research in Copenhagen's Nationalmuseet and throughout several Scandinavian countries. Powell was the Edmond J. Safra Visiting Professor at the Center in spring 2019.

From 2007 until 2010, Powell was editor in chief of The Art Bulletin, the world's leading English-language journal in art history. In 2013 Powell received the Lawrence A. Fleischman Award for Scholarly Excellence in the Field of American Art History from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art, and in 2016 was honored at the College Art Association Annual Conference as the year's Distinguished Scholar. In 2018 Powell was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2021 he was offered membership in the American Philosophical Society.

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