“Did the Bear Sit Under the Tree” (1969) by Benny Andrews

 

THE INTERNATIONAL TOUR for “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” has been extended. The exhibition will be on view at The Broad next March. The Los Angeles museum is the exhibition’s only West Coast venue and the show’s final stop.

“Soul of a Nation” opened last summer in London to rave reviews. Organized by the Tate Modern, the show is curated by Zoe Whitley and Mark Godfrey. Showcasing more than 200 works by about 60 artists responding to the Civil Rights, Black Power, and Black Feminism movements, the show presents works by the most acclaimed African American artists of the eras.

Figures from the artist collectives Spiral and AfriCOBRA and the Black Arts Movement in Los Angeles are represented in the show. Individual artists include Emma Amos, Benny Andrews, Romare Bearden, Emory Douglas, Sam Gilliam, David Hammons, Barkley L. Hendricks, Jae and Wadsworth Jarrell, Howardena Pindell, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, Alma Thomas, Charles White and Jack Whitten.

Focusing on the years between 1963 to 1983, the exhibition surveys particularly challenging periods in American history. Given this, its arrival in the United States was much anticipated.

After debuting stateside at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark. (Feb 3-April 23, 2018), “Soul of a Nation” will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum from Sept. 14, 2018–Feb. 3, 2019. The exhibition was originally planned for three venues—the Tate, Crystal Bridges, and the Brooklyn Museum. The Broad was recently added and announced publicly a few days ago when the museum released its 2019 exhibition schedule.

“’Soul of a Nation’ brings to Los Angeles a deep look at the crucial work of Black artists across the United States from the civil rights era to the early 1980s, highlighting the experimentation, production and exhibition of Black art during that time. It features several collaborative activist groups, and a vital scene in Los Angeles,” Joanne Heyler, The Broad’s founding director and chief curator, said in a statement.

“This carefully curated show’s capacity to deepen our audience’s appreciation of the American postwar era motivated us to present it at The Broad.”

“’Soul of a Nation’ brings to Los Angeles a deep look at the crucial work of Black artists across the United States from the civil rights era to the early 1980s, highlighting the experimentation, production and exhibition of Black art during that time.”
— Joanne Heyler, Founding Director and Chief Curator at The Broad


BETYE SAAR, “Rainbow Mojo,” 1972 (acrylic painting on cut leather, 19.75 x 49.75 inches). | Courtesy the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, Calif., Photo by Robert Wedemeyer

 

FOUNDED BY ART COLLECTORS and philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, The Broad, a contemporary art museum, opened in 2015. “Soul of a Nation” will be the first historic show presented at the institution. At the outset, Heyler had doubts about hosting the exhibition.

“Initially, I did not think it was quite right for [the Broad Museum]—we were not looking for another touring exhibition to host and there is not an overlap between the artists in the show and the Broad’s collection,” Heyler told the Art Newspaper.

Two factors changed Heyler’s mind. For starters, she was surprised the exhibition wasn’t destined for the West Coast, particularly given its connections with the region. “Soul of a Nation” features a significant number of artists who were working in Los Angeles in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, Hammons, Saar, White, Melvin Edwards, Daniel LaRue Johnson, Senga Nengudi, John Outterbridge, Noah Purifoy, and Timothy Washington, among them.

In addition, “Charles White: A Retrospective” is traveling to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art next spring (February 17–June 9, 2019) and will coincide with The Broad’s presentation of “Soul of a Nation.” The chance to see both shows gives the work added context and creates a destination opportunity for visitors to the city.

Heyler said: “The more I thought about it the more important I thought it was to bring [Soul of a Nation] here.” CT

 

TOP IMAGE: BENNY ANDREWS, “Did the Bear Sit Under the Tree,” 1969 (oil paint, fabric, and zipper on canvas, 50 x 61.75 x 2.25 inches). | Private Collection, Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY

 

BOOKSHELF
Edited by curators Mark Godfrey and Zoe Whitley, “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” was published to accompany the exhibition. The catalog features essays by the curators, explores major movements and moments from Spiral to FESTAC, and includes written recollections from Samella Lewis, Edmund Barry Gaither, David C. Driskell, Jae and Wadsworth Jarrell, and Linda Goode Bryant. “Now Dig This!: Art and Black Los Angeles, 1960-1980” focuses on many of the Los Angeles-based artists included in “Soul of a Nation.” Two recent volumes document Betye Saar’s practice “Betye Saar: Uneasy Dancer” and “Betye Saar: Still Tickin’.”

 


BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS, “Blood (Donald Formey),” 1975 (oil and acrylic on canvas, 72 x 50.5 inches). | Courtesy of Dr. Kenneth Montague, The Wedge Collection, Toronto. © Estate of Barkley L. Hendricks. Courtesy of the artist’s estate and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Photo by Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum

 


WADSWORTH JARRELL, “Revolutionary,” 1972 (Screen print on paper, 34 × 26.5 inches). | Courtesy Lusenhop Fine Art, Copyright Wadsworth Jarrell. Photo courtesy David Lusenhop

 


BETYE SAAR, “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima,” 1972 (mixed media assemblage, 11.75 x 8 x 2.75 inches; 29.85 x 20.32 x 7.0 cm). | Collection of Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, Calif., Purchased with the aid of funds from the National Endowment for the Arts (selected by The Committee for the Acquisition of Afro-American Art). Courtesy the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, Calif., Photo by Benjamin Blackwell

 


BETYE SAAR, “Eye,” 1972 (acrylic paint on leather). | Courtesy the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, Calif., Photo by Robert Wedemeyer

 
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