hank willis thomas - priceless #1


THE SHELDON MUSEUM OF ART at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln is presenting four exhibitions that offer a visual journey through black history, culture and politics over the past century. From James VanDerZee and Gordon Parks to Barkley L. Hendricks and Renee Cox works by some of the most celebrated and thought-provoking artists and photographers from the past and present are on view:

    “Emory Douglas – Power to the People: The Struggle Continues” | The newspaper and powerful graphic images Emory Douglas produced for the Black Panthers in the 1960s and 70s defined the revolutionary group, its brand and message.

    “VanDerzee” | Photographs by VanDerZee from the museum’s collection capture African American life from the beginning of the Harlem Renaissance.

    “Gordon Parks: Segregation Story” | Taken in 1956, Parks’s color photographs bring into sharp relief the indignities one Alabama family endured in the Jim Crow South.

    “Black Fire: A Constant State of Revolution” | Featuring works by modern and contemporary artists, “Fire” includes works by Hendricks, Cox, Robert Colescott and Martin Puryear, among others that reflect the African American experience from 1964 to the present.

I asked the museum what prompted the mounting simultaneously of four exhibitions all focusing on African American art and artists. In response, the museum provided a statement by email from Wally Mason, director of Sheldon Museum.

“It is incumbent on academic art museums to be reflections of the present. In striving to do so, we are mindful of the great Tim Winton quote, ‘The past is in us, and not behind us. Things are never over,'” Mason said.

“The exhibitions give our audiences opportunities to contemplate social change and consider how the present reveals how little may actually have changed.”

The museum has announced recently acquired works by Colescott, Willie Birch, Leonardo Drew, and Hank Willis Thomas which are on view in “Black Fire,” along with existing holdings from the museum’s collection by Cox, Hendricks, Martin Puryear and Norman Lewis.

Beginning Oct. 23 through Oct. 30, the museum is hosting Art + Social Justice Week, a series of free events and discussions open to the public. On Sunday, Oct. 25, “Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People,” the documentary film about how photography has historically influenced views on race is being screened. The week concludes with “After Identity, What?” a talk by Thomas on Friday, Oct. 30, exploring the themes of his practice including perceptions of race, identity and representation.

The four exhibitions are on view through Jan. 3 2016. CT


TOP IMAGE: “Black Fire”: New Acquisition: HANK WILLIS THOMAS, “Priceless #1,” 2004 (lambda photograph). | Anna R. and Frank M. Hall Charitable Trust


leonardo drew
Black Fire: LEONARDO DREW, “Number 175T” 2015 (wood, paint, and screws). | University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Anna R. and Frank M. Hall Charitable Trust


“Power to the People: The Struggle Continues”: EMORY DOUGLAS, “Untitled (Afro-American solidarity with the oppressed People of the world),” 1969, printed 2015 (archival pigment print). | Collection of the artist. © 2015 Emory Douglas/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY


“Power to the People: The Struggle Continues”: EMORY DOUGLAS. “Untitled (Hey, Mister, what you doing to the poor man, Lord knows you oughta quit it.),” 1972, printed 2015 (archival pigment print). | Collection of the artist. © 2015 Emory Douglas/ARS, NY


James VanDerZee - Black Jews, Harlem 1929
“James VanDerZee”: JAMES VANDERZEE, “Black Jews, Harlem,” 1929, published 1974 (gelatin silver print). | Nebraska Art Association, purchased with the aid of funds from the National Endowment for the Arts


NOVEMBER | “Gordon Parks: Segregation Story,” featuring a portfolio of 40 images from 1965, opens at High Museum in Atlanta.
“Segregation Story”: GORDON PARKS, “Department Store, Mobile, Alabama, 1956,” 2013 (Archival pigment print). | Courtesy of Arthur Roger Gallery. © The Gordon Parks Foundation.


“Black Fire”: New Acquisition: ROBERT COLESCOTT, “The Other Washingtons,” 1987 (oil on canvas). | University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Olga N. Sheldon Acquisition Trust, Courtesy of Arthur Roger Gallery


Willie Cole "Stowage", woodblock print on kozo-shi paper 56" x 104" UNL-F. M. Hall Collection Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery H-3071
“Black Fire”: WILLIE COLE, “Stowage,” 1997 (woodblock print on kozo-shi paper). | University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Anna R. and Frank M. Hall Charitable Trust


Radcliffe Bailey
“Black Fire”: RADCLIFFE BAILEY, “Untitled,” 2000 (mixed media and collage on paper). | Sheldon Art Association, gift of Kathryn and Marc LeBaron. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York


Willie Birch -Detail-Sweeping Scrubbing Washing Healing
“Black Fire”: WILLIE BURCH, “Sweeping, Scrubbing, Washing, Healing” (detail),” 2008 (acrylic and charcoal on paper). | University of Nebraska–Lincoln, gift of an anonymous donor. Courtesy Arthur Roger Ga


Barkley Hendricks U-5540-2009
“Black Fire”: BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS, “Bid ’Em In/Slave (Angie),” 1973 (Oil and acrylic on canvas). | Sheldon Museum of Art Olga N. Sheldon Acquisition Trust. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY