The exhibition Romare Bearden: Vision & Activism, will be on view in the Main Gallery of the Susquehanna Art Museum at The Marty and Tom Philips Family Art Center from June 9 to September 23, 2018. Museum members are invited to a special opening preview on Friday, June 8 from 5:00 – 7:00pm.
This exhibition examines how an American artist agitated for social change through the power of his art and writing. For over fifty years Romare Bearden (1911-1988) depicted, defined, and celebrated the life that surrounded him.
“… it is not my aim to paint about the Negro in America in terms of propaganda. It is precisely my awareness of the distortions required of the polemicist that has caused me to paint the life of my people as I know it-as passionately and dispassionately as Brueghel painted the life of the Flemish people of his day.”
-Romare Bearden from “Rectangular Structure in My Montage Paintings,” (1969)
To say he had a unique perspective, and heightened skills at expression, only begins to consider his genius. He lived through tumultuous and exciting times of change in this country. He was involved in political action in and outside of the studio. Whether he worked in text, painting, collage, printmaking, or commissioned publications and murals, he chose to reflect his concerns and experiences in his creations. This means in his art you see war, struggle and strife, but also ritual, music, and family joy.
Originally curated by Diedra Harris-Kelley, C. Daniel Dawson, and Robert G. O’Meally, as “Artist as Activist” (NYC 2011) this exhibition has been revised and updated for the present tour. Organized by the Romare Bearden Foundation, with generous loans from the Estate of Nanette Bearden, and the DC Moore Gallery, New York; Exhibition Management by Landau Traveling Exhibitions, Los Angeles, CA.
Plan Your Visit
Date: June 9 – September 23, 2018
Venue: Main Gallery
Exhibiting Artist: Romare Bearden
Sponsored by: Brenner Family of Dealerships and The Bill and Beverlee Lehr Fund of TFEC.
Vision and Activism traces Bearden’s evolution into a true master artist whose art changed ways of seeing the world. Through a diverse collection of original collage, watercolor, limited edition prints, reproductions, and archival material, viewers glimpse a vision of reviewing, revising, and celebrating throughout. The exhibition starts with examples of the beginnings of his art with editorial cartoons for university magazines, and later, national publications and newspapers.
Artists often make social change simply through representing, or rearranging, the way we see people or things. Bearden’s observations of American life and culture may not seem unique to us now, because they have so much informed what we now imagine about Mecklenburg County, NC in the early 20th century, or Harlem of the 1950’s. We see the prevalence of rituals- people at work, at play, in the home, and in the jazz club- but it’s his use of collage, and other artistic techniques, which readjusts our lens of understanding complex lives. Bearden’s depictions of women bring full circle the early influence of the artist’s mother, Bessye Bearden, a dynamic force in her son’s life, and the Harlem community of her time.
Bearden’s great love of literature, and skill at story telling are also on display. Here are examples of him revisiting and then reconstructing themes of bullfighting, Trojan war, and the Bible, into stories that at once seem specific and universal at the same time. Generations to come will engage this vision through Bearden’s visual conversations that continue to speak to issues relevant today.