Museum tour of the major exhibition of abstract works by Romare Bearden
Romare Bearden: abstraction, a major traveling exhibition organized by the American Federation of the Arts and the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, SUNY, includes approximately 55 works by the revolutionary African-American artist. Romare Bearden: abstraction presents the first in-depth look at Bearden’s engagement with abstraction.
Through paintings, collages, watercolors and photostats ranging from the 1940s to the late 1960s, the exhibition explores and contextualizes Bearden’s important but relatively unknown abstract work alongside his early figurative abstractions and his paintings. more famous figurative collages. At the center of the exhibition are a group of rarely exhibited stain paintings by Bearden, created between 1952 and 1963, which reveal a masterfully distinctive experimentation with color and form unlike anything the artist had created before. This important but little-known period of Bearden’s career laid the foundation for the famous figurative collages that the artist began producing in 1964.
The exhibition was created by the Neuberger Museum of Art, with the national tour of Romare Bearden: abstraction to be launched in October 2021 with presentations at Gibbes Art Museum, Charleston, South Carolina (October 15, 2021 – January 9, 2022); the University of Michigan Art Museum, Ann Arbor, MI (February 5 – May 15, 2022); and the Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA (June 25 – September 18, 2022).
“Romare Bearden is one of the great American artists of the twentieth century,” said Pauline Willis, director and CEO of the American Federation of Arts. Work are relatively unknown. It is with immense pleasure that the American Federation of Arts presents major traveling exhibition Romare Bearden: abstraction this is invaluable to academics and will also bring joy and enrichment to the public across the United States, ranging from the southern United States to the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest. “
According to exhibition curator Dr. Tracy Fitzpatrick, “Prior to this exhibition, very little substantive scientific attention had been paid to the body of work that directly precedes the works for which Bearden is best known. Romare Bearden: abstraction corrects this omission by providing the first substantial and scholarly examination of this extraordinary body of large-scale non-figurative work and mixed media collages. The project contributes to the development of alternative scenarios around the dominant narrative of post-war abstraction while revealing, for the first time, the roots of the work for which Bearden is best known. “
Romare Bearden and the road to abstraction
Romare Bearden was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1911. In 1914, his parents moved the family to Harlem as part of the “Great Migration,” during which many African-Americans born in the South moved on. fled north to escape Jim Crow South. Bearden began his education in the 1930s, studying art on a work-study basis at New York University, Boston University, and the Art Students League under George Grosz. This diversity of influences contributed to a rich artistic education; and in 1940, Bearden got his first solo exhibition in New York. Assembled chronologically and according to medium, this exhibition highlights the importance of Bearden’s abstract paintings and collages during his formal development, including examples of abstract figurative compositions from the mid-1940s and mature collages for which he is widely regarded. today.
Although initially rooted in the figurative tradition, Bearden gradually moved towards abstraction in the 1940s. A breakthrough came in 1945 when Bearden’s work was included in a group exhibition at the Maeght Gallery in Paris. . Shown alongside works by William Baziotes, Adolph Gottlieb and Robert Motherwell, Bearden was rightly associated with the leading contemporary artists of the American avant-garde. Following the positive reception of an exhibition in Washington, DC, Bearden was offered a representation by influential New York gallery owner and proponent of abstraction, Samuel M. Kootz. The works of this period illustrate both the artist’s affinity for abstract forms as well as his remarkable ease with watercolor and ink.
After the closure of the Kootz Gallery in 1948 and a brief stay in Paris, Bearden began to take a full interest in non-figurative subjects in the 1950s. The abstract works of this period are striking in their quality, variety and breadth. exceptional. Watercolors and oil paintings in easel format such as The blue crest (around 1952) and Mountains of the moon (1955) show Bearden’s unique interpretations of landscape through abstraction.
Although initially reluctant to work in oils, Bearden’s skill in this medium peaked in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when he was introduced to ink wash painting. from China by a local bookseller. Inspired by this technique, Bearden began diluting the oil paint with turpentine to achieve a smoother bill, closer to the watercolor he was most comfortable with. Applying a diluted pigment to an unsized canvas – now commonly referred to as stain painting – was a method used by several other artists during this period, including Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, and Kenneth Noland. Bearden’s work ranks among the best examples of this innovative application; done in both light and dark tones, these paintings exemplify the artist’s remarkable sensitivity to color. Works such as Green torches welcome new ghosts (1961) show Bearden enthusiastically brushing, pouring and spraying diluted oil, while the curved lines of East Gate (1961) reveal the inspiration for Chinese calligraphy.
Bearden has continually reinvented his approach to artistic creation. By mixing oil pigments diluted with casein, then painting them on medium-sized canvas or paper, he relied on the immiscibility of oil and water to create an effect marble. with blue (1962) and Foreign land (1959) embody the marbled patterns; these compositions suggest natural substances, as if they see the speckled and veined qualities of rocks and plants in great detail. Bearden combined oil and collage in another group of works he was producing around this time, which he began by cutting out his paintings and then pasting them onto painted boards. River mist (1962) is a work of washed and splashed blues reminiscent of moving water, with areas of painted oranges and white tinted canvases. The painted elements are cut, then nested and finally glued on a board painted in brown. Such works are clear precursors of the figurative collages produced after 1964.
Bearden created a new body of work in October 1964. Collectively titled “Projections,” these works represent another innovative development in the artist’s body of work. Perpetually intrigued by collage, Bearden began to use cutout paper to form representative images rather than abstract arrangements. First created on a small scale and then enlarged by photostatic reproduction, this process would eventually result in the large-scale figurative collages that Bearden created for the rest of his career.
Although his abstract work was well received at the time in galleries and by the press, Bearden chose to adopt figuration as his main art mode after 1964. While many of the abstract compositions are included in public and private collections , many have remained in stock since they were first displayed, while others have never been shown outside of this exhibition. Romare Bearden: Abstraction constitutes a rare opportunity for the public to see these important abstract works and an invitation to reassess the career of one of the greatest American artists of the post-war period.