THE MESMERIZING, STRANGE AND FANTASTIC WORLD envisioned by Wangechi Mutu is on full display at the Block Museum in Evanston, Ill. If you missed “Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey” at Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum or the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, it recently opened on the campus of Northwestern University where it will be on view through Dec. 7. In addition to the Mutu show, there are a number of compelling exhibitions featuring black art and artists hitting the road this season and catalogs have been published to coincide with almost all of them. From Los Angeles to Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., 8 traveling exhibitions are offering groundbreaking presentations exploring performance art, civil rights, black male identity and a rare opportunity to view the work of Archibald Motley:

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“Yo Mama,” 2003 (ink, mica flakes, pressure-sensitive synthetic polymer sheeting, cut-and-pasted printed paper, painted paper, and synthetic polymer paint on paper) by Wangechi Mutu | Museum of Modern Art, New York © Wangechi Mutu, Photo by David Allison

WANGECHI MUTU, “Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey” at Block Museum
Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill. | Sept. 19 – Dec. 7, 2014

MYTHICAL, FASHIONABLE, POLITICAL, and race and gender conscious, Wangechi Mutu’s transporting work presents the female figure in textured, otherworldly landscapes rife with fauna, flora and color. In her first solo exhibition in the United States, “Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey” explores two decades of the artist’s practice, more than 50 pieces including early creations from the mid-1990s and new works. wangechi mutu - fantastic journey Mixed-media collages, installations and video works plumb her active imagination, endless magazine archive and global background—born in Nairobi, Kenya, educated in Britain and at Yale, Mutu lives and works in Brooklyn.

The accompanying 176-page, richly illustrated catalog features essays by Nasher Museum of Art Chief Curator Trevor Schoonmaker, who organized the exhibition, art historian Kristin Stiles and writer Greg Tate, along with a Q&A conversation between Mutu and Schoonmaker.

“Mythical, fashionable, political, and race and gender conscious, Wangechi Mutu’s transporting work presents the female figure in textured, otherworldly landscapes rife with fauna, flora and color.”


Curator Valerie Cassel Oliver of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston discusses “Radical Presence.”

“RADICAL PRESENCE: Black Performance in Contemporary Art” at Walker Art Center
Minneapolis, Minn. | July 24, 2014 – Jan. 4, 2015

FOR THE FIRST TIME, “Radical Presence” considers on a grand and comprehensive scale the work of black visual artists expressing themselves in performance. The groundbreaking survey spans the 1960s to the present and covers the gamut—public interventions, studio actions, and performances before live audiences, photographers and video cameras. radical presenceThirty-six artists are featured, including Terry Adkins, Theaster Gates, David Hammons, Lyle Ashton Harris, Jayson Musson, Senga Nengudi, Lorraine O’Grady, Clifford Owens, Benjamin Patterson, Adam Pendleton, William Pope.L., Jacolby Satterwhite, Xaviera Simmons, Dread Scott, and Carrie Mae Weems. Curated by Valerie Cassel Oliver of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, where the show was first presented in November 2012, “Radical Presence,” is accompanied by a robust schedule of performances, talks and other events. The exhibition traveled to NYU’s Grey Art Gallery and the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2013, before debuting at the Walker Art Center.

One of Culture Type’s “Best Black Art Books of 2013,” the coinciding 156-page catalog celebrates the rich canon of black performance art by highlighting the work of each artist included in the exhibition, with essays by Oliver, Yona Backer, Tavia Nyong’o, Naomi Beckwith, Franklin Sirmans and Owens, and an extensive chronology from the 1840s to 2012.

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“It Takes Two to Integrate (Cha, Cha, Cha),” 1961 (painted dolls, dried fish, glass in wooden box) by Edward Kienholz. | Collection of David R. Packard and M. Bernadette Castor, Portola Valley, CA © Kienholz, Photo courtesy L.A. Louver, Venice, Calif.

“WITNESS: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties” at Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth University, Hanover, N.H. | Aug. 30 – Dec. 14, 2014

FOR SO MANY AMERICANS, the optics of the civil rights movement are in black and white. The photography and documentary footage of the era dominate our understanding of the brutal, challenging and triumphant time. “Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties” offers an alternative lens through which to view the fight for racial justice, witness-art and civil rightsgathering the work of visual artists who, during that period, registered their response to the movement through painting, sculpture, mixed-media works and installations. Celebrated African American artists and photographers, along with many of their white, Latino, Asian American and Native American contemporaries are featured, including Benny Andrews, Richard Avedon, David Hammons, Barkley L. Hendricks, Robert Indiana, Edward Kienholz (above), Norman Lewis, Gordon Parks, Faith Ringgold, Norman Rockwell, Ed Ruscha, Charles White, Jack Whitten and William T. Williams. Co-curated by the Brooklyn Museum’s Theresa A. Carbone and Kellie Jones of Columbia University, “Witness” opened at the Brooklyn Museum earlier this year, marking the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After the Hood exhibition concludes, it will travel to the Blanton Museum of Art (Feb. 15–May 10, 2015) at the University of Texas at Austin.

Fully illustrated, the powerful and evocative work of 66 artists punctuates insightful essays by Jones, Carbone, Connie H. Choi, Cynthia A. Young, and a chronology compiled by Dalila Scruggs, in the 176-page catalog that complements the exhibition.

READ more about the art and civil rights exhibition and catalog on Culture Type

“‘Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties’ offers an alternative lens through which to view the fight for racial justice, gathering the work of visual artists who, during that period, registered their response to the movement through painting, sculpture, mixed-media works and installations.”

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The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia presents “Question Bridge: Black Males,” a five-channel video installation. | Courtesy Question Bridge

“QUESTION BRIDGE: Black Males” at Fabric Workshop and Museum
Philadelphia | Sept. 13 – Nov. 9, 2014

CREATED BY CHRIS JOHNSON, Hank Willis Thomas, Bayeté Ross Smith, and Kamal Sinclair, “Question Bridge: Black Males” harnesses video technology to connect more than 150 men from across the country in conversations about black male identity and issues of race, masculinity, family and community. Described as a “transmedia” conversation, men of various ages are filmed asking questions. Their queries are shown to other men who are videotaped responding to the questions. The result is a multiscreen platform where poignant questions are posed and then answered by several different respondents. A few actors Delroy Lindo, Jesse Williams (top row, center) and Malik Yoba (Lindo and Williams helped produce the project) are among the men who span generations and educational, economic and geographic backgrounds. The project has spurned candid public conversations and revealed the diverse and insightful perspectives and forthright and inquisitive nature of participants. Including more than 1,600 videos of questions and answers, the innovative, five-channel video installation has traveled extensively. In addition to the Fabric Workshop and Museum, it is currently being shown at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York (Sept. 19, 2014 – Jan. 3, 2015). Previously, “Question Bridge” has been on view at the Brooklyn Museum, Cleveland Museum of Art, Milwaukee Art Museum, Chicago’s DuSable Museum of African American History and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., among many other venues.

EXPLORE the project’s website and meet the participants and hear some of their conversations

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“The Picnic,” 1936 (oil on canvas) by Archibald J. Motley Jr. | Collection of the Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.

ARCHIBALD MOTLEY, “Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist” at Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Los Angeles, Oct. 19, 2014 – Feb. 1, 2015

A RARE OPPORTUNITY TO VIEW 45 paintings by Chicago artist Archibald Motley (1891-1981) is coming soon to Los Angeles. “Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist” features mesmerizing portraits and vibrant cultural scenes painted between 1919 to 1961. archibald motley - jazz age modernistLargely held by private collectors, it’s been more than two decades since a comprehensive survey of Archibald’s work was mounted. Known for his depictions of Chicago jazz and Paris blues, he was a master at capturing the vibe of a specific time and place, at the same time, using wry humor to explore delicate issues of race and identity. Originating at Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art, the exhibition was organized and curated by professor Richard J. Powell. Earlier this year, it was on view at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Ft. Worth, Texas. Following its run in Los Angeles, “Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist” will travel to the Chicago Cultural Center and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

The exhibition’s 178-page catalog features more than 140 color illustrations and contributions by Powell, Davarian L. Baldwin, Oliver Meslay, Amy M. Mooney, Ishmael Reed and David C. Driskell, who recounts visiting Motley in Chicago to purchase a painting on behalf of Bill and Camille Cosby.

READ my Culture Talk interview with the exhibition’s curator Richard J. Powell

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More than 75 years ago, Hale Woodruff painted six murals for Talladega College.

HALE WOODRUFF, “Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladego College” at Smithsonian
National Museum of African American History and Culture Gallery (National Museum of American History), Washington, D.C. | Nov. 7, 2014 – March 1, 2015

IN 1938, TALLADEGA COLLEGE commissioned Hale Woodruff to paint a series of six murals depicting the Amistad uprising and its aftermath and the founding of the Alabama college after the civi war. risign up-hale woodruffAfter hanging in the HBCU’s library for decades, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta partnered with Talladega to remove and conserve the historic murals and share them with a national audience for the first time via a multi-city tour. “Rising Up” was presented at the High Museum in 2012, shown in 2013 at the Chicago Cultural Center along with 30 other works by Woodruff, and recently was on view at the New Orleans Museum of Art. After the Smithsonian, the mural exhibition will travel to the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas, Mo.

Published to coincide with the “Rising Up,” the 156-page catalog explores the commissioning, development and significance of Woodruff’s murals, features images documenting the restoration process and writings by High Museum curator Stephanie Mayer Heydt, David C. Driskell, Renee Ater, Larry Shutts, and Juliette Smith.

“After hanging in the HBCU’s library for decades, the High Museum of Art partnered with Talladega to remove and conserve the historic murals and share them with a national audience for the first time.”

FINALLY, THERE ARE TWO ADDITIONAL EXHIBITIONS that are closing soon on Oct. 12. Earlier this year, the Studio Museum in Harlem originated “When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination and the American South.” Now on view at the Museum of Art Ft. Lauderdale at NOVA Southeastern University (Aug. 3 – Oct. 12, 2014), the exhibition presents the work of “outsider” artists alongside contemporary practitioners who share an interest in the U.S. South. Thornton Dial, Trent Doyle, Deborah Grant, Lonnie Holley, Kerry James Marshall, John Outterbridge, Noah Purifoy, Jacolby Satterwhite, Patricia Satterwhite and Kara Walker, are among the 35 artists featured in the show. The accompanying catalog includes essays by scholars including Thomas J. Lax, who organized the exhibition, and Lowery Stokes Sims, that give further context to the show. Next, “When the Stars Begin to Fall” is headed to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (Feb. 4 – May 20, 2015).

At the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia, “Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art: Works on Paper” (June 27 – Oct. 12, 2014) consists of more than 70 watercolors, pastels, etchings, and linoleum and color screenprints produced primarily in the 1930s and 40s, during the era of the Great Depression and the Works Progress Administrations’s Federal Arts Project. Traveling since 2007, the exhibition features artists who defined African American art in the 20th century, including Romare Bearden, John Biggers, Margaret Burroughs, Elizabeth Catlett, Eldzier Cortor, Aaron Douglas, William H. Johnson, Jacob Lawrence, Horace Pippin, Henry O. Tanner, Alma Thomas and Charles White. CT