February Issue 2002
Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, SC, Hosts Exhibition of Self-Taught African-American Artists
The Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, SC,
will present the exhibition, Testimony: Vernacular Art of the
African-American South, one of the world's outstanding holdings
of present-day work by self-taught artists from the American South.
The exhibition will be on view from Jan. 19 - Mar. 17, 2002.
The exhibition features 25 artists working in a spectrum of media. The artworks, all expressive of a deep-founded spirit, introduce a significant body of arresting work, from large-scale paintings and reliefs, to small and lyrical works on paper, to complex, inventive assemblages of metal, wood, fiber, and found objects. In their provocative stylistic diversity, these artworks express the conflicts and joys of African-American experiences in the South in the last two decades. Testimony bears witness to the continuing struggle for social justice and for personal fulfillment experienced by African-Americans in the South.
The artworks in Testimony are organized into six overlapping themes: witness to history, allegorical animals, Biblical scenes, iconic human figures, spiritual messages, and observation and decoration. Underlying the different styles and techniques of the artists, these themes reveal their drive to communicate shared concerns.
Among the artists represented in the exhibition are Lonnie Holley, creator of a celebrated sculptural environment at his home in Birmingham, AL; James "Son" Thomas of Mississippi, famous both as a blues musician and an artist; Bessie Harvey of Tennessee, whose sculptures were included in the 1995 Whitney Biennial; Archie Byron, who has been successful in Atlanta not only as an artist but as an entrepreneur and political leader; and several members of Alabama's extraordinary Dial family, led by Thornton Dial, Sr., affording a survey of the relations within this Alabama dynasty of artists.
For the past twenty years, vernacular art by Southern African-Americans has attracted growing art-world and public interest under such labels as "folk" and "Outsider Art". Scholars of African-American culture identify the legacies of Africa and the Caribbean in these works and establish the cultural roots of this art in the artists' own communities. Testimony explores how Southern segregation, the Civil Rights movement, and the African heritage in American culture shaped this art.
curated by Dr. Howard Dodson, Director of The Schomburg Center
for Research in Black Culture of The New York Public Library.
It is organized by The Schomburg Center and by Exhibitions International
for a North American and international tour. Its paintings, reliefs,
and assemblages are drawn from the collection of Ronald and June
Shelp, well-known champions of this art. The North American tour
is circulated by Exhibitions International, New York. WIS Television
is the official media sponsor for the Columbia presentation.
For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings or call the Museum at 803/799-2810 or at (http://www.columbiamuseum.org).
Mailing Address: Carolina Arts, P.O. Drawer
427, Bonneau, SC 29431
Telephone, Answering Machine and FAX: 843/825-3408
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