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September 2011

Mint Museum Uptown in Charlotte, NC, Offers Major Retrospective of Romare Bearden

This fall, The Mint Museum presents a major retrospective of the work of Romare Bearden (1911-1988), widely regarded as one of America’s most pre-eminent African American artists and foremost collagists, as well as a noted writer and musician. The exhibition Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections surveys 50 years of the artist’s work, from his early abstract paintings to the influential collages that dominated his later body of work. Opening on the centennial of Bearden’s birth, the exhibition will be on view at the Mint Museum Uptown, at Levine Center for the Arts, in Charlotte, from Sept. 2 through Jan. 8, 2012. An opening reception will be held on Sept. 2, from 6-10pm.

“Romare Bearden broke new ground with his innovative collages and left a powerful legacy to generations of American artists,” said Curator of Contemporary Art and exhibition curator Carla Hanzal.

“Given the long association between Bearden and the city of Charlotte, the Mint has a special interest in bringing this important career overview to the public.”

Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections will include approximately 100 works of art drawn from The Mint Museum’s extensive holdings, as well as national public and private collections. This exhibition examines how the South served as a source of inspiration throughout his career, a theme which has not been explored previously. Among the large thematic groupings will be selections from the Prevalence of Ritual series, which includes many works referring to Bearden’s childhood home in North Carolina.

Born in Mecklenburg County, NC, Bearden lived there until the age of four. Although his family settled in New York, the artist’s brief childhood in the South and return visits to Charlotte made a noteworthy impact on his art. During these visits, Bearden absorbed stories and observations about the rituals of daily Southern life - the relentless toil of crop cultivation, women tending gardens and mixing herbal remedies, fish fries and other community gatherings, and religious activities. These experiences, which stood in stark contrast to the urban rhythm of his parents’ New York City household, left a lasting impression on him.

The exhibition’s loosely chronological structure traces critical themes in Bearden’s work such as music, religion, social change, and family, particularly informed by an African-American experience. The earliest group of works, from the 1940s, focuses on his memories of the rural South, painted in tempera on brown paper and characterized by strong colors, flattened perspective, and stylized, highly formal compositions. Works such as The Visitation (1941) and Folk Musicians (1942) depict scenes of agrarian life yet also portray universal emotional bonds.

As Bearden developed his iconic collage technique in the mid-1960s, he made use of a wide ranges of art practices, both Western and non-Western. His use of collage, with its distortions, reversals, and Surrealistic blending of styles, enabled Bearden to convey the dream-like quality of memory, and was, therefore, a perfect vehicle for recording of his memories of the South.

After helping to found an artist’s group in support of civil rights in 1963, Bearden’s work became more overtly socially conscious. One of his most famous series, Prevalence of Ritual, concentrated mostly on southern African American life. Works like Baptism (1964) examined the changing nature of African Americans’ rights. Illustrating the movement of water being poured onto the subject being baptized, Bearden conveyed the temporal flux of society during the civil rights movement. In Carolina Reunion (1975), the subject matter is emblematic of the longing for a better life and the comforting familiarity of home embodied in the northern migration of African Americans from the South during the early part of the 20th century.

Bearden returned to Mecklenburg County in the 1970s just as his career was beginning to gain momentum. This Southern homecoming proved bittersweet. Charlotte was undergoing urban renewal, and already traces of Bearden’s past had been erased. This nostalgic experience imbued Bearden with a greater sense of urgency to both celebrate and eulogize a lost way of life, a theme that would inform his artwork for the remainder of his days.

During the 1970s, Bearden developed a complex iconography that spoke to these new developments. Drawn to “journeying things” - trains and birds - his inclusion of these recurring motifs implied a movement from one way of life to another. He increasingly used richer colors and more decorative patterns to mediate ideas about African American community and culture, as in Of the Blues: Carolina Shout (1974), Back Porch Serenade (1977), and Sunset Limited (Mecklenburg County) (1978).

A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition with contributions by Mary Lee Corlett, Jae Emerling, Glenda Gilmore, and Leslie King-Hammond. The exhibition will tour nationally following its debut at the Mint.

Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections is made possible with generous support from Duke Energy and Wells Fargo. Additional funding is provided by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Several public programs are being offered in conjunction with this exhibition at the Mint Museum Uptown including:

On Sept. 3, at 3pm - Romare Bearden’s Jazz Compositions in Performance. Bearden wrote many jazz compositions but few are performed today. This is a rare opportunity to hear a selection of his musical work, and to learn about his relationships with many leading musicians. Free for Mint members, or after admission.

On Sept. 10, at 11am - Lecture: Color Struck - Evidence and Essence (Decoding and Living the Legacy of Romare Bearden). Discussion with Hasaan Kirkland, associate professor of fine art, Johnson C. Smith University. Free.

On Sept. 11, at 3pm - Point/Counterpoint Dialogue: Bearden’s Charlotte Recollections. Discussion with Dr. Glenda Gilmore, historian, Yale University, and Dr. Richard Powell, art historian, Duke University. Free for Mint members, or after admission.

On Sept. 21, Oct. 16 & Nov. 9, at 2pm - Curator’s Tours. Curator of Contemporary Art Carla Hanzal will lead exhibition tours. Free for Mint members, or after admission.

On Oct. 4, Oct. 25 & Nov. 1, from 7-8:30pm - Lecture Series. Discussion with Davidson College faculty: Shaw Smith (art history), Nancy Fairley (social anthropology), Bill Lawing (music). Free.

On Oct. 9, at 3pm - Lecture: Romare Bearden. Speaker TBA. Free to Mint members, or after admission.

On Oct. 11, from 6-9pm - College Night. Students will enjoy live music, film, and an exhibition walk-through. Free, $5 film admission for non-members.

On Oct. 14, at 7pm - Conversation on the Art of Romare Bearden. Discussion with Ruth Fine, curator of special projects in modern art, National Gallery of Art, and Herb Jackson, painter and professor emeritus, Davidson College. Reception following. Free.

On Oct. 15, from 10am-6pm - Davidson College Day. Davidson College students receive free admission with proof of college ID.

On Oct. 16, from 1-5pm - Sunday Fun Day. Family drop-in activities celebrating the art of Romare Bearden. Free for Mint members, or after admission.

On Oct. 18, at 7pm - Lecture. Discussion with Kyle Coleman, Education Outreach Assistant, Columbia Museum of Art, about the parallels between Africobra and the Spiral groups. Free.

On Oct. 23, Oct. 30, Nov. 6 & Nov. 13, at 3pm - Southern Writers/Southern Recollections. A four-part series of readings of prose and poetry about the Southern sense of place by renowned North and South Carolina writers. Tickets: $10 member, $15 non- member.

On Jan. 7, 2012, from 6-8pm - First Friday. Celebrate the exhibition’s closing weekend with gallery tours, live entertainment, hands-on art activities, and a cash bar. Free for Mint members, $10 non-members.

On Jan. 7 & 8, 2012 - Community Homecoming. Enjoy performances, tours, music, a poetry slam, and extended museum hours with galleries open until 9pm on Saturday. Free.

The Mint Museum is a unique gathering place for people to experience art through significant and varied collections, engaging exhibitions, and innovative educational programs. Established in 1936 as the first art museum in North Carolina, the Mint Museum Randolph is housed in what was the first branch of the United States Mint and exhibits collections of art of the ancient Americas, ceramics, and historic costume, among others. The Mint Museum Uptown houses the internationally-renowned Mint Museum of Craft + Design, as well as American and contemporary art and select works from the European art collection. The Mint Museum is funded, in part, with operating support from the Arts & Science Council of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Inc.; the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources; the City of Charlotte; and its members.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Mint at 704/337-2000 or visit (


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