rashid johnson


THE ASSOCIATION OF ART MUSEUM OF DIRECTORS is celebrating Art Museum Day on Sunday, May 18. For the fifth year, museums across the country are using the annual event to promote the cultural and educational benefits of their programming and encourage the public to visit. Participating museums are offering free or reduced admission and special events on Art Museum Day, which coincides with the International Council of Museum’s International Museum Day.

The occasion presents an ideal opportunity to highlight black artists with museum exhibitions underway this season. Masters such as William H. Johnson and Hale Woodruff, groundbreakers including Carrie Mae Weems and El Anatsui, and innovators Wangechi Mutu, Shinique Smith and Rashid Johnson (above), are on view. The following is a nationwide survey of selected exhibitions, and if you can’t make it to the museums, many have coinciding catalogs:


Portraiture from the Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art at The University of Alabama
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts | April 19 to June 15, 2014
Paul R. Jones amassed one of the most important collections of African American art and in 2008, two years before his death, he donated more 1,700 works of art by more than 600 artists to the University of Alabama. This exhibition features paintings, sculptures, prints, and photographs from the collection, all portraits of significant figures including James Baldwin, Paul Robeson, James Van Der Zee, Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence, Gordon Parks and Aaron Douglas.

william h johnsonARIZONA

William H. Johnson: An American Modern
Phoenix Art Museum | April 19 to July 13, 2014
A selection of rarely seen paintings offers an overview of William H. Johnson’s practice, exploring African American life and culture through bold, colorful images whose studied simplicity define his modern aesthetic.

“From the impressionism of Paris to the jazz ambiance of Harlem, William H. Johnson (1901-1970) found a singular style of painting that reflected his own African American roots and folk culture.”
— Phoenix Art Museum


Sam Doyle: The Mind’s Eye
Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art | May 3 to Aug. 17, 2014
Self-taught artist Sam Doyle (b. 1906) hails from Saint Helena Island, S.C., where he began painting on cast-off sheets of metal and wood boards more than 70 years ago. The LAMOCA exhibition features portraits of people from his community.

The Legacy of the Golden State Life Insurance Company: More Than a Business
California African American Museum, Los Angeles | April 4 to July 31, 2014
Founded in 1925, the black-owned insurance company acquired and displayed in its offices, the largest U.S. collection of corporat-owned art, including works by Charles Alston, Charles White, Hale Woodruff and Elizabeth Catlett. The museum has a number of other exhibitions currently on view, including Soul Stirring: African American Self-Taught Artists from the South and Question Bridge: Black Males.


Rashid Johnson: New Growth
Denver Museum of Contemporary Art | Feb. 21 to June 15, 2013
Using a range of materials—shea butter, black soap, books and LPs—Rashid Johnson creates paintings, sculptures and installations (shown at top). According to the museum, “His works challenge conventional representations of collective identity. Beginning with the question, ‘What would happen if Sun Ra, George Washington Carver and Robert Smithson started a community together in the desert?'”

wangechi mutuFLORIDA

Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey
Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami | April 18 to July 6, 2014
A survey of Kenyan-born Wangechi Mutu’s multidisciplinary practice, this exhibition explores Afro futurism, capturing 21st century global sensibilities and fantastical representations of feminism.

Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui
Bass Museum of Art, Miami | April 11 to Aug. 10, 2014
Born in Ghana, El Anatsui lives in Nigeria where drawing on the cultural and aesthetic traditions of his origins, he creates textile-like wall and floor sculptures composed of found metals. The exhibition is his first solo show in the United States.



Sam Nhlengethwa: Life, Jazz and Lots of Other Things
SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah | Feb. 18 – June 22, 2014
According to the museum, Sam Nhlengethwa’s first solo exhibition in the United States, “opens with a juxtaposition of works by Nhlengethwa and Romare Bearden orienting viewers to a significant creative voice for the artist.” Through painting, installation and tapestries, one of South Africa’s most accomplished contemporary artists, explores themes of jazz, daily life and nation building.

A Decade of David Driskell
High Museum of Art, Atlanta | Jan. 18 to June 15, 2014
The David C. Driskell Prize in African American Art, the only national award recognizing the accomplishments of black artists and scholars, is marking its tenth year. Lyle Ashton Harris, the 2014 recipient, was honored earlier this month. The accompanying exhibition features work by Driskell, previsous prize winners and works purchased with support from the Driskell acquisition fund.

risign up-hale woodruffLOUISIANA

Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College
New Orleans Museum of Art | May 16 to Sept. 14, 2014
In 1938, Talladega College commissioned Hale Woodruff to paint a series of murals depicting the Amistad uprising. After hanging in the HBCU’s library for decades, the recently conserved murals are on exhibit.


Shinique Smith: Arcadian Clusters
Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Lansing | Feb. 7 to June 1, 2014
Working across a range of mediums, from painting and drawing to collage and site-specific installations, Shinique Smith is recognized for her amorphous sculptures composed of second hand clothing and fabrics. According to the museum, “Graffiti, secondhand finds, and neo-tribalism interact with Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, and Japanese calligraphy to create playful alternations between overt messages and subtext.”

“In an exhaustive effort to process and restore culture, [Shinique] Smith creates menageries that blend high- and lowbrow expressions of the artistic process.” — Broad Art Museum


Anything but Civil: Kara Walker’s Vision of the Old South
St. Louis Art Museum | Feb. 26 to Aug. 10, 2014
Known for her cut-paper silhouettes depicting disturbing scenes of the antebellum South, Kara Walker’s 2005 work “Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated),” a portfolio’s 15 large-scale prints is the focus of this exhibition.

Our Stories: African American Prints and Drawings
Cleveland Museum of Art | Jan. 26 to May 18, 2014
From the 1930s to today, more than eight decades of work are represented in this exhibition featuring Charles White, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Martin Puryear and Kara Walker, among others.

when the starsNEW YORK

When the Stars Begin to Fall
Studio Museum in Harlem | March 27 to June 29, 2014
In a unique approach, this exhibition examines the ways in which outsider art relates to the work of contemporary artists, considering within an art historical and political context how the fields interact and how each reflects black life.

Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties
Brooklyn Museum, New York | March 7 to July 6, 2014
A group exhibition, Witness examines the civil rights-era fight for racial justice through the lens of paintings, sculpture, mixed-media works, photography and installations by African American artists including David Hammons, Benny Andrews, Barkley Hendricks and Faith Ringgold, along with their white, Latino, Asian American, Native American, and Caribbean contemporaries. Read more

Carrie Mae Weems: The Museum Series
Studio Museum in Harlem | Jan. 30 to June 29, 2014
The exhibition presents a thought-provoking series Carrie Mae Weems began in 2006, photographing herself with her back to the camera before the world’s most prestigious art institutions (including the Louvre, Tate Modern and Philadelphia Museum of Art) a challenge to their homogenous collecting and exhibition practices. View catalog

“The images are complicated by [Carrie Mae Weems’s] position as an artist in relationship to these institutions as well as by the constellation of race and gender inequality, agency and access that surround them.”
— Studio Museum in Harlem


Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love
Philadelphia Museum of Art | April 27 to Nov. 30, 2014
A retrospective featuring more than 80 ensembles by celebrated 1980s fashion designer Patrick Kelly that were gifted to the museum by his partner Bjorn Guil Amelan, and choreographer Bill T. Jones.


Posing Beauty in African American Culture
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond | April 26 to July 27, 2013
Curated by Deborah Willis, an examination of what the museum describes as “the contested ways in which African and African American beauty has been represented in historical and contemporary contexts,” through a range of media, including photography, film, video, fashion and advertising by Charles “Teenie” Harris, Carrie Mae Weems, Renee Cox, Anthony Barboza, Mickalene Thomas and Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, among others. View catalog


LaToya Ruby Frazier: Born by a River
Seattle Art Museum | Dec. 13, 2013 to June 22, 2014
The recipient of the 2013 Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize, documentary photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier examines the plight and decline of her family and birthplace, Braddock, Pa., a polluted industrial town just outside Pittsburgh. CT


TOP IMAGE: Detail of “Phoenix Bird,” 2013 (burned red oak flooring, black soap, wax and spray enamel. Courtesy Rashid Johnson and Hauser & Wirth, New York via MCA Denver.


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