[PAST EVENT] African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era and Beyond

September 28, 2012 - January 6, 2013
Muscarelle Museum of Art
611 Jamestown Rd
Williamsburg, VA 23185Map this location
African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era and Beyond presents 100 works dating from the 1920s through the 1990s by 43 black artists who participated in the multivalent dialogues about art, identity and the rights of the individual that engaged American society throughout the 20th century.

The subjects of the artists are diverse. James VanDerZee's small portrait photographs capture the elegance of black New Yorkers in the 1920s. Canvases by William H. Johnson and Benny Andrews affirm the dignity and resilience of Southern sharecroppers. Paintings by Jacob Lawrence and Norman Lewis acknowledge racial discrimination and the ongoing struggle for individual equality, and those by Alma Thomas explore the beauty of the natural world.

These artists worked at significant social and political moments in American life. The Harlem Renaissance, World War II, the Civil Rights movement and the technical advances of the space age shaped their lives and world views. Family and personal history became subtexts for some; others translated the syncopations of jazz into visual form. In styles that range from documentary realism, to painterly expressionism, to abstractions of stained color, they acknowledge the heritage of Africa and explore the dynamic forces that govern the physical world. The words of Howard University philosophy professor Alain Locke, novelist James Baldwin, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and their contemporaries provided insight and inspiration. In response these artists affirm community and individuality and the role of art as a vehicle for understanding the many facets of the American experience.

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