On Friday, Sept. 2, 2011, at 6pm, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Uptown Charlotte, NC, will open its doors for three exhibitions commemorating the 100th anniversary of Romare Bearden’s Mecklenburg County birth. Bearden’s niece, Deidra Harris-Kelley, Co-Director of the Romare Bearden Foundation, along with acclaimed artists Radcliffe Bailey, Nanette Carter, Louis Delsarte and Wadsworth A. Jarrell will join the celebration. Work by the four artists is included in the show.
Paper Trail: Romare Bearden Works on Paper features many of Bearden’s rarely seen watercolors and prints on loan from Charlotte collectors. Photographer Frank Stewart captured the artist in his studio; with prominent artists and cultural figures; during moments of introspection; and with friends and family in Romare Bearden: The Life. The work of painters, printmakers and mixed-media artists represent those who were influenced and inspired by Bearden in Beyond Bearden: Creative Responses.
“Our three exhibitions expand upon Bearden’s collages by covering different territory,” said David Taylor, Gantt Center president & CEO. “His watercolors, particularly the Caribbean series, show another facet of Bearden’s work and Frank Stewart’s photographs offer a glimpse into the artist’s day-to-day life. Beyond Bearden gives us the opportunity to showcase other artists, like Betye Saar, Radcliffe Bailey and Maya Freelon Asante, who are members of a new generation of collagists.”
The Gantt Center will also unveil Saxophone Improvisation during the centennial celebration. The original Bearden collage and watercolor was donated to the Center by Charlotte residents Thomas and Nora Hughes. Saxophone Improvisation is one of three Bearden collages reproduced as a mural in the Frederick P. Rose Hall Atrium at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York.
The Mint Museum Uptown will also open its Bearden exhibition to the public on Sept. 2, 2011. The Gantt Center and Mint Museum have partnered to present the Bearden Bridge — entertainment on the plazas in front of the two facilities — to encourage art lovers to see all of the exhibitions Friday evening. Both openings are free to members of the two institutions. Admission to the Gantt Center is $5 for non-members.
The following day at noon, artist David Wilson will lead a hands-on collage workshop with live jazz accompaniment. Wilson created the vibrant glass mural, Divergent Threads, Lucent Memories, which is installed on the south face of the Gantt Center building. An example of his digital collage work is included in the Beyond Bearden exhibit and he is also, currently, a McColl Center artist-in-residence. Pamela Ford, the curator of a nationally traveling exhibition, From Process to Print: The Graphic Work of Romare Bearden, will follow Wilson at 1 pm with a one-hour dialogue about Bearden’s innovative printmaking practice.
The Gantt Center will present additional Bearden-related programs and activities throughout the run of the show. On Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011, photographer Frank Stewart and curator Ruth Fine will travel to the Gantt Center to discuss their personal and professional relationships with the master collagist. Stewart chronicled the last thirteen years of Bearden’s life in photographs.
The three Romare Bearden Centennial Celebration exhibitions, Paper Trail; Romare Bearden: The Life; and Beyond Bearden, will be on display at the Harvey B. Gantt Center through January 22, 2012.
Romare Howard Bearden was born on Sept. 2, 1911, in Charlotte and died in New York City on Mar. 12, 1988. He pursued a broad range of intellectual and scholarly interests, including visual art, literature, music, performing arts and history.
Bearden began college at Lincoln University, transferred to Boston University and completed his studies, including extensive courses in art, at New York University, graduating with a degree in education. He also attended the Art Students League in New York and later, the Sorbonne in Paris. From the mid-1930s through the 1960s, Bearden was a social worker by day and artist at night. He achieved success with his first solo exhibition in Harlem in 1940 and held his first solo show in Washington, DC, in 1944.
Recognized as one of the most creative and original visual artists of the twentieth century, Bearden is best known for his richly textured collages, two of which appeared on the covers of Fortune and Time magazines, in 1968. His work is filled with visual metaphors from his life in Mecklenburg County, Pittsburgh, Harlem and the Caribbean. In the early 1970s, he established a second residence on the Caribbean island of St. Martin — his wife’s ancestral home — and some of his later work reflects the island’s lush landscapes.
An innovative artist with diverse interests, Bearden designed costumes and sets for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and, along with artists Norman Lewis and Ernest Crichlow, established Cinque Gallery to support young minority artists. He was also instrumental in founding the Studio Museum in Harlem.
Bearden’s work is included in many important public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and The Studio Museum in Harlem. He had retrospectives at the Mint Museum of Art (1980), the Detroit Institute of the Arts (1986), as well as numerous posthumous retrospectives, including The Studio Museum in Harlem (1991) and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, (2003).
Bearden was also the recipient of many awards and honors throughout his lifetime, including the National Medal of Arts which was presented to him by President Ronald Reagan in 1987.
Deidra Harris-Kelley created collages at her uncle Romare Bearden’s feet as a child. A noted painter with an MFA from University of Michigan, Harris-Kelley has also taught at NYU and currently serves as a curatorial consultant at Jazz at Lincoln Center and as Co-Director of the Romare Bearden Foundation in New York City. The Bearden Foundation was established in 1990 to preserve and perpetuate the legacy of Bearden, widely acknowledged as one of the most talented visual artists of the twentieth century. From 1990 until her death in 1996, Nanette Rohan Bearden — the artist’s wife — was president of the Foundation.
Ruth Fine is the curator of special projects in modern art at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. As curator of modern prints and drawings at the National Gallery from 1988 through 2002, Fine organized exhibitions of work by several American artists, including Romare Bearden, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, John Marin, and Georgia O’Keeffe. She also organized exhibitions of works from the Herbert and Dorothy Vogel Collection of contemporary art.
Fine is a painter and printmaker whose work is in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum Library, London; the Museum of the Book, The Hague; and the National Library of Canada, as well as at Columbia University, Bryn Mawr College, Dartmouth College, the Boston Public Library, and IBM. She has illustrated five books, lectures frequently, and has taught studio art. Fine graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with an MFA in 1964 and the Philadelphia College of Art (BA, 1962) and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1961.
From the mid-1960s until the 1980s, Romare Bearden created a body of print works using a range of techniques that included etching, screen printing and lithography. Working in close collaboration with master printmakers, Bearden expanded his artistic practice which brought his work to a broader audience. The prints share many familiar themes and motifs with his collages which Bearden reinterpreted through cutting edge technology, employing his unmatched talent for invention.
For over 14 years, Pamela Ford has developed exhibitions and visual arts programming for academic, adult and professional audiences. During her Sept. 3, 2011, Conversation @ Gantt, Ford will discuss selected print works from the Gantt Center’s exhibition based on recent research.
In addition to her work as a curator, Ford has served as Director of Education at the Studio Museum in Harlem and as Program Director of the Romare Bearden Foundation.
Born in Nashville, TN, Frank Stewart attended the Art Institute of Chicago and received a BFA in photography from Cooper Union in New York. He was a member of the first team of North American journalists invited by the Center for Cuban Studies to visit Cuba in 1977 and was also invited by the Los Angeles Olympic Committee to photograph the 1984 Olympic Games.
Stewart’s books include Romare Bearden: Photographs by Frank Stewart; Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country, written by Lolis Eric Elie with photographs by Frank Stewart; and Sweet Swing Blues on the Road, written by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, with photographs by Frank Stewart. Stewart has exhibited internationally—either individually or as part of a group—at The High Museum, Cooper Union Gallery, Studio Museum in Harlem, Schomburg Center for Research, the International Center of Photography, Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC, among others. Stewart currently serves as Senior Staff Photographer for Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Founded in 1974, Charlotte’s Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture (formerly the Afro-American Cultural Center) exists to present, preserve and promote African-American art, culture and history. The Harvey B. Gantt Center is an epicenter for the best in visual, performing and literary arts and leads community outreach initiatives and arts education programs. Built to museum standards, it is also the permanent home for the John & Vivian Hewitt Collection of African-American Art and is a celebrated wedding and event venue.
To learn more, please visit (www.ganttcenter.org).
Editor’s Note: See more about Romare Bearden exhibits being presented in Charlotte in the Sept. 2011 issue of Carolina Arts – online Sept. 1, 2011.