Smithsonian American Art Museum Exhibition About African American Art In The 20th Century Opens At The Hunter Museum Feb. 14

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Hunter Museum of American Art will present “African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era and Beyond,” an exhibition from the Smithsonian American Art Museum comprised of a selection of works by 43 black artists who lived through the tremendous changes of the 20th century. In paintings, sculpture, prints and photographs, the featured artists embrace themes both universal and specific to the African American experience, including the exploration of identity, the struggle for equality, the power of music and the beauties and hardships of life in rural and urban America.

African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era and Beyond” will be on view at the Hunter Museum from Feb. 14 through May 25. The exhibition is organized by Virginia Mecklenburg, chief curator of painting and sculpture at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

“This exhibition allows us to understand profound change through the eyes of artists,” said Elizabeth Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “These works by African American artists are vital to understanding the complex American experience.”

The 100 works on view are drawn entirely from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s rich collection of African American art, the largest and finest in the United States. More than half of the works featured are being exhibited by the museum for the first time, including paintings by Benny Andrews, Loïs Mailou Jones and Jacob Lawrence, as well as photographs by Roy DeCarava, Gordon Parks and Marilyn Nance.  Several of the artists in this exhibition also have works in the Hunter Museum’s permanent collection, such as Jacob Lawrence, Benny Andrews, Thornton Dial, Sam Gilliam, Richard Hunt and Lois Mailou Jones.

The 20th century was a time of great change in America. Many of the social, political and cultural movements that came to define the era, such as the jazz age, the Harlem Renaissance and the civil rights movement, were rooted in African American communities. Black artists explored their identity in this quickly changing world through a variety of media and in styles as varied as postmodernism, documentary realism, expressionism and abstraction.

“Visitors will be struck not only by the power of these artworks, but also by the variety of the pieces on display,” said Ms. Mecklenburg. “So many new movements and styles grew out of the tumult of the 20th century, and these works reflect that diversity.”

“Each of the artists included in this exhibition made a compelling contribution to the artistic landscape of 20th century America, and we are delighted to feature their work in the museum’s galleries,” said Ms. Mecklenburg.

Special Programs at the Hunter Museum of American Art

Art + Issues: Civil Rights, Wrongs, Judgments and Justifications
Feb; 27 | 6 PM
Marcus Ellsworth, president of Tennessee Valley Pride and Host of Wide Open Floor, will explore Civil Rights movements in the black community and in the LGBT community historically and today. Join us for a provocative discussion. Free to all in the community. This is presented in partnership with The AIGA. 

Art + Issues: Diversity Is! Now Deal With It?
March 20 | 6 PM

Art + Issues will explore the ways we understand and engage with diversity in our community with UTC professors Dr. Bart Weathington, UC Foundation Professor in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and Dr. Brian O’Leary, Department Head and Associate Professor of Psychology. Free to all in the community. This is presented in partnership with The AIGA.

Art Wise: Distinguished Speakers at the Hunter Museum presents Virginia Mecklenburg
March 27 | 6 PM

The Hunter welcomes Smithsonian American Art Museum Chief Curator Virginia Mecklenburg. Mecklenburg, one of the curators of our current exhibition, “African American Art: Harlem Renaissance Civil Rights Era and Beyond,” will offer insight into the exhibit. The Art Wise series is generously sponsored by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee Community Trust with additional support from Sally and Thomas Faulkner. General Admission.

The Word, the Sound and the Image: Meditations on “Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights and Beyond
April 10 | 6 PM
Join musician, DJ and spoken word poet, Christian Collier, and other local performers as they bring the paintings in our special exhibition to new meaning and life, performing on themes that travel from the past to the present, from the paintings to the living soul. General Admission. 


Sound and Image: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights and Beyond
May 1 | 6 PM

Join UTC Adjunct Professor of Saxophone Clint Schmitt and Hunter curators as they explore the music and visions expressed in the current special exhibition “African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era and Beyond.” 

Theatrequest: Performances of Harlem Renaissance Civil Rights and Beyond
May 22 | 6 PM

For this year’s installation of our annual audience favorite, Theaterquest, these talented teen playwrights and actors will perform original works inspired by the Hunter’s current temporary exhibition, "African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights and Beyond.” Free to high school students and their families. Co-presented by the Chattanooga Theatre Center.


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