MUSEUMS ACROSS THE NATION are surveying more than 150 years of African African American art. Coinciding with Black History Month, the exhibitions engage a spectrum of themes, presenting an expansive look at Black artistic production. From Sacramento, Calif., to Cincinnati, Ohio, Charlotte, N.C., and New York City, the exhibitions highlight the work of women artists, African and Black American artists active in the modern era, 19th century potters, and art from the collections of historically Black colleges and universities. (Exhibitions are listed in chronological order by opening date):


RACHEL JONES, “SMIIILLLLEEEE,” 2021 (oil pastel, oil stick on canvas, 160 x 250 cm). | Green Family Foundation, Courtesy Adam Green Art Advisory. © Rachel Jones, Courtesy the artist and Thaddeus Ropac. Photo by Chad Redmon

A Superlative Palette: Contemporary Black Women Artists @ Harvey B. Gantt Center, Charlotte N.C. | Jan. 26-July 28, 2024

Guest-curated by Dexter Wimberly, “A Superlative Palette” features works by 12 “generation-defining” women artists: Nina Chanel Abney, ruby onyinyechi amanze, Lauren Halsey, Rachel Jones, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Jennifer Packer, Calida Rawles, Deborah Roberts, Tschabalala Self, Amy Sherald, Mickalene Thomas, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. Living artists hailing from a variety of backgrounds, most are painters with unique approaches to figuration. Odutola and amanze focus on drawing. Jones works in abstraction. Halsey is known for her inventive sculptures and installations that celebrate her South Central community and promote Black businesses.


From left: LOUISIANA BENDOLPH, Detail of “Housetop variation with half squares blocks,” (quilt: plain weave cotton broadcloth patch with printed cotton lining and polyester batting). | © Louisiana Bendolph. Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Gift of Souls Grown Deep Foundation; BILLY ZANGEWA, “The Dreamer,” 2016 (silk tapestry). | © Billy Zangewa. Spelman College Museum of Fine Art purchase with support from the Friends of the Museum in celebration of the Museum’s 20th Anniversary

Threaded: Textile Works by Contemporary Black Women Artists @ Spelman Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta, Ga. | Feb. 2-May 24, 2024

“Threaded” is anchored by seven Gee’s Bend quilts from Spelman’s collection that recently underwent conservation. The newly restored works join a Gee’s Bend quilt from the collection of Clark Atlanta University and works by a new generation of textile artists who work in a variety of formats, including quilting. Featured artists are Louisiana Bendolph, Mary Lee Bendolph, Polly Bennett, Willie Ann Benning, Bisa Butler, Helen McBride Richter, Flora Moore, Ruth Pettway Mosely, Ebony G. Patterson, Loretta Pettway, Bettie Bendolph Seltzer, Phyllis Stephens, Sonie Joi Thompson-Ruffin, Qualeasha Wood, and Billie Zangewa. The exhibition is curated by Spelman College Museum of Fine Art Director Liz Andrews and Karen Comer Lowe with Brandy Pettijohn.


DAVID CLYDE DRISKELL (AMERICAN, 1931–2020), “Woman with Flowers,” 1972 (oil and collage on canvas, 37 1/2 x 38 1/2 inches. | ArtBridges, © The Estate of David C. Driskell

Black Artists in America: From Civil Rights to the Bicentennial @ Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, Calif. | Feb. 4-May 19, 2024

A survey of artists who came to prominence in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, this exhibition presents a powerful selection of works that reflect the social, political, and cultural climate of the times. Featured artists include Emma Amos, Romare Bearden, Ed Clark, Beauford Delaney, David C. Driskell, Norman Lewis, Howardena Pindell, Alma Thomas, Charles White, Kenneth Victor Young, and members of AfriCOBRA. Organized by Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, Tenn., the exhibition is curated by Earnestine Jenkins and accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog.


Publicity still, “The Flame of Paris” (1938, re-release of “Princess Tam-Tam, France,” 1935). | Photographer unidentified. Toddy Pictures Company. Reproduction from original negative. Toddy Pictures Company Photographs. Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971 @ Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Mich. | Feb. 4-June 23, 2024

Shot in Jacksonville, Fla., “Regeneration” (1923) is a 100-year old silent film with a white director, all-Black cast, and romantic narrative set in the south seas. Taking its title from the film, this exhibition celebrates seven decades of cinema history, exploring the legacy of African American filmmakers and actors through objects and contemporary art. An expansive collection of photographs and ephemera (posters, props, and costumes), film excerpts, and a selection of fully restored rare films are presented in dialogue with works by contemporary artists including Theaster Gates, Glenn Ligon, Gary Simmons, and Kara Walker. Organized by the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, the exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog.


ROMARE BEARDEN (1911–1988), “Late Afternoon,” 1971 (collage and mixed media on board, 14 1/2 x 18 3/4 inches). | Museum purchase, Funds provided by The William Lightfoot Schultz Foundation, 1979.6

Century: 100 Years of Black Art at MAM @ Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, N.J. | Feb. 9-July 7, 2024

Montclair Art Museum has been acquiring works by Black artists since the 1940s. This landmark exhibition reflects the museum’s progress, showcasing 70 collection works produced by 59 artists, major historic figures and key contemporary talents working in a range of mediums, over the past century. The show is organized around six themes: Black Portraiture, African Diasporic Consciousness, Archival Memory, Abstraction, Black Mythologies, and Black Joy and Leisure. Adrienne L. Childs and nico w. okoro curated the exhibition, which will be accompanied by new catalog.


IBRAHIM EL-SALAHI (born 1930), “Vision of the Tomb,” 1965 (oil on canvas, 36 x 36 inches). | Collection of The Africa Center, New York, 2008.2.1. Photo by Jerry L. Thompson © Ibrahim El-Salahi, All rights reserved, ARS, NY 2022, Courtesy Vigo Gallery and American Federation of Arts

African Modernism in America, 1947-67 @ Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio. | Feb. 10-May 19, 2024

This traveling exhibition explores the complicated “relationships between modern African artists and American patrons, artists, and cultural organizations amid the tumultuous interlocking histories of the civil rights movement in the United States, the decolonization of Africa, and the global Cold War.” More than 70 works by about 50 African and Black American artists are featured, including John Biggers, Peter Clarke, David C. Driskell, Aaron Douglas, Ibrahim El-Salahi, Ben Enwonwu, Yusuf Grillo, William H. Johnson, Akinọla Laṣekan, Jacob Lawrence, Malangatana Valente Ngwenya, Suzanna Ogunjami, and Uche Okeke. Co-organized by the American Federation of Arts and Fisk University Galleries, the exhibition is co-curated by Jamaal Sheats, Fisk University professor and director and curator at the Fisk University Galleries, with Perrin Lathrop and Nikoo Paydar. Many of the works on view are drawn from the Nashville HBCU’s collection of gifts from the Harmon Foundation. A fully illustrated catalog documents the exhibition.


From left, _MAKER(S) once known, likely enslaved at Phoenix Stone Ware Factory (circa 1840), and attributed to THOMAS W. CHANDLER JR. (American, 1810–1854), Watercooler, circa 1840 (alkaline-glazed stoneware with iron and kaolin slip, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase in honor of Audrey Shilt, President of the Members Guild, 1996–1997, with funds from the Decorative Arts Acquisition Endowment and Decorative Arts Acquisition Trust, 1996.132. Photo by Michael McKelvey; DAVE (later recorded as DAVID DRAKE) (American, ca. 1801-1870s), enslaved at Stony Bluff Manufactory (ca. 1848–1867), Storage Jar, 1857 (alkaline-glazed stoneware). | Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Harriet Otis Cruft Fund and Otis Norcross Fund, 1997.10. Photo © 2022 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina @ High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Ga. | Feb. 16-May 12, 2024

In the decades before the Civil War, Old Edgefield, S.C., was a center of stoneware production. This traveling exhibition brings to light the talent, work, and creativity of Black artists—free and enslaved—whose contributions are critical to the storied history of the pottery district. About 50 ceramic jugs, storage pots, and face vessels by unknown makers and celebrated potter and poet David Drake (circa 1800-circa 1870s) are featured alongside a selection of works by contemporary artists including Simone Leigh, Theaster Gates, Woody De Othello, and Robert Pruitt, whose practices have drawn inspiration from their historic counterparts. A fully illustrated catalog documents the show.


DEREK FORDJOUR, “Airborne Double,” 2022 (acrylic, charcoal, cardboard, oil pastel, and foil on newspaper mounted on canvas). | © David Forjour. Frances Fine Art Collection, Courtesy the artist, David Kordansky Gallery, and Petzel Gallery, New York. Photo by Daniel Greer

Multiplicity: Blackness in Contemporary American Collage @ Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in Houston, Texas. | Feb. 18-May 12, 2024

Bringing together a broad array of collage and collage-style works, “Multiplicity” considers the complexity of Black identity and the expansive nature of the Black experience. More than 80 works by 52 living artists are on view. The group includes Mark Bradford, Lauren Halsey, Rashid Johnson, Kerry James Marshall, Wangechi Mutu, Jamea Richmond-Edwards, Deborah Roberts, Tschabalala Self, Lorna Simpson, Devan Shimoyama, and Mickalene Thomas, as well as Tay Butler, Jamal Cyrus, Rick Lowe, and Lovie Olivia, notable artists connected to Houston.


BETTY BLAYTON (1937-2016), “Vibes Penetrated,” 1983 (acrylic on canvas, 60 3/4 X 60 3/4 inches). | Spelman College Museum of Fine Art. Spelman College Purchase, © Estate of Betty Blayton

Silver Linings: Celebrating the Spelman Art Collection @ Boise Art Museum, Boise, Idaho. | Feb. 24-July 21, 2024

The Spelman College Museum of Fine Art was founded just three decades ago in 1996. A touring exhibition, “Silver Linings” showcases about 40 works from the collection of the Atlanta HBCU for women. Spanning a variety of mediums and styles, the works date from the early 20th century to the contemporary moment. Featured artists include Amalia Amaki, Emma Amos, Benny Andrews, Firelei Bàez, Herman “Kofi” Bailey, Romare Bearden, Betty Blayton, Beverly Buchanan, Selma Burke, Elizabeth Catlett, Floyd Coleman, Renée Cox, Myra Greene, Sam Gilliam, Samella Lewis, Glenn Ligon, Howardena Pindell, Lucille Malkia Roberts, Deborah Roberts, Faith Ringgold, Nellie Mae Rowe, Lorna Simpson, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Lina Iris Viktor, Carrie Mae Weems, and Hale Woodruff.


WILLIAM HENRY JOHNSON (American, 1901–1970), “Woman in Blue,” circa 1943 (oil on burlap, Framed: 35 × 27 inches / 88.9 × 68.6 cm). | Clark Atlanta University Art Museum, Permanent Loan from the National Collection of Fine Art, 1969.013. Courtesy Clark Atlanta University Art Museum

The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism @ Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, N.Y. | Feb. 25-July 28, 2024

Millions of African Americans moved away from the segregated South during the Great Migration. This much-anticipated exhibition explores the way in which artists who landed in Harlem, Chicago, and other “new Black cities,” portrayed modern life in the 1920s-40s. About 160 paintings, sculptures, and drawings by the likes of Charles Alston, Aaron Douglas, Meta Warrick Fuller, Palmer Hayden, Bert Hurley, William H. Johnson, Archibald Motley, Jr., Winold Reiss, Augusta Savage, James Van Der Zee, and Laura Wheeler Waring are featured. A significant portion of the works on view were drawn from the collections of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Curated by Denise Murrell, the exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog. CT


Many of the themed exhibitions mentioned above are accompanied by a new publication. Landmark catalogs explore Black artists working in collage (“Multiplicity: Blackness in Contemporary American Collage”) and the legacy Black filmmakers and actors from the dawn of cinema (“Regeneration: Black Cinema, 1898–1971”). Focusing on modern artists active in the mid-20th century, “The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism” and “African Modernism in America” document exhibitions of the same name. Also consider, “Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina.”


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