Jacob Lawrence, Bar and Grill, 1941, gouache, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Henry Ward Ranger through the National Academy of Design


African American heritage explored at Crocker

By From page B1 | July 02, 2014

“African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era and Beyond” presents 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” is on view at the Crocker Art Museum through Sept. 21.

“The Crocker Art Museum is the only West Coast venue for this stunning survey of African American visual heritage, its rich sources and future directions,” said Diana Daniels, curator at the Crocker Art Museum.

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.

Ten of the artworks were acquired within the past five years. More than half of the objects in the exhibition are photographs from the museum’s permanent collection. Individual object labels connect the artworks with the artistic and social factors that shaped their creation.

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.

“This expansive display featuring paintings, sculptures and photographs drawn solely from the Smithsonian American Art Museum offers the rare opportunity to see many of the most famous images of 20th-century African American art ever created,” said Daniels.

In paintings, prints and sculpture, artists such as William H. Johnson and Andrews speak to the dignity and resilience of those who work the land.

Romare Bearden recasts Christian themes in terms of the black experience.

Jones, Sargent Johnson and Melvin Edwards address African heritage, while Alma Thomas explores the beauty of the natural world through color and abstract forms.

Studio portraits by James VanDerZee document the rise of the black middle class in the 1920s, while powerful black-and-white photographs by DeCarava, Nance, Parks, Robert McNeill, Roland Freeman and Tony Gleaton chronicle everyday life from the 1930s through the final decades of the 20th century.

Exhibition-related programs

This summer, the Jazz in the Courtyard series draws inspiration from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s exhibition of “African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond” by celebrating the African American musical traditions and musicians who paved the way for modern music.

MJ’s Brass Boppers comes to Jazz in the Courtyard on July 17 at 6 p.m. With New Orleans style and California sophistication, MJ’s Brass Boppers are a singing and swinging brass-line ready to party at a drop of a dime. You’ll feel like you’re parading down the avenue with beads flying through the air as the Brass Boppers give you an authentic second-line experience with true New Orleans flair.

Award-winning composer, arranger, educator and bassist, Marcus Shelby performs on Aug. 21 at 6 p.m. Shelby is nationally recognized for his commitment to using jazz to narrate the rich history of African Americans.

On Sept. 18 at 6 p.m., saxophonist Garrett Perkins brings a versatile range from bebop to contemporary jazz. Perkins is dedicated to promoting music that is both educational and entertaining. His concert will feature works by African American musicians past and present.

Tickets for Jazz in the Courtyard are $6 for Crocker members and $12 for non-members.

Thursday, Aug. 28, at 6 p.m. Exhibition Live! “African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond” brings exhibitions to life through music, live performances, readings and discussions set inside the museum galleries.

Celebrate the exhibition “African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond” with live performances by the Celebration Arts Theater Company and special film screenings by CineSoul, along with curator insights and interactive art making.

Space is limited and reserving tickets in advance is recommended. The exhibition will only be open to ticketholders from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Free for Crocker members and included in general admission for non-members.

“Icons in Conversation: The Black Lens” is a series of intimate conversations with well-known figures in the arts offers rare insights from artists in their own words. Internationally renowned photographers Earlie Hudnall Jr. and Tony Gleaton who are featured in “African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era and Beyond” will share stories and insights about their history, their work and their legacy.

Space is limited for the Saturday, Sept. 6, event at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 for Crocker members, $15 for non-members.

A concert by Trio MôD: Kuper, Pittman and Tau on Sept. 14 at 3 p.m. begins with a docent-led prelude tour of “African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond” at 1:30 p.m.

Trio MôD’s powerful players integrate classical, jazz, gospel and Native American styles to create original arrangements and tonal colors.

This new eclectic ensemble of superb California musicians features Maquette Kuper, flute, alto flute; Deborah Pittman, clarinet and Native American flute; and vocalist Omari Tau, baritone. Original arrangements of spirituals and jazz tunes as well as Pittman’s Harlem-oriented trio arrangement “Peter in the Hood,” highlight the history and culture of Harlem Renaissance as featured in the exhibition “African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era and Beyond”.

The prelude tour is free for Crocker members, included with general admission for non-members. The concert is $6 for Crocker members, $12 for non-members.

A Lunch and Learn on Tuesday, Sept. 2, at 12 p.m. allows participants to join an in-depth examination of Joseph Delaney’s “Penn Station at War Time.” Before or after the 30-minute gallery talk, take time to enjoy lunch at the Crocker Cafe by Supper Club.

Free for Crocker members, included with general admission for non-members.

“Oh Freedom! Teaching African American Civil Rights through American Art at the Smithsonian” is an educational Website that offers insights into the civil rights movement through the lens of Smithsonian collections. Drawing connections among art, history and social change, Oh Freedom! provides educators with tools to help students reimagine and reinterpret the long struggle for civil rights, justice and equality. Visit Oh Freedom! at africanamericanart.si.edu.

“African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era and Beyond” is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with support from Alston & Bird; Amherst Holdings LLC; Diane and Norman Bernstein Foundation; Larry Irving and Leslie Wiley; the William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment Fund; Clarence Otis and Jacqui Bradley; and PEPCO. The C.F. Foundation in Atlanta supports the museum’s traveling exhibition program, Treasures to Go.

The Crocker is located at 216 O St. in downtown Sacramento. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursdays. Every third Sunday of the month is “Pay What You Wish Sunday” sponsored by Western Health Advantage. For more information call (916) 808-7000 or visit crockerartmuseum.org.

Crocker Art Museum


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