Search

Collection Tour

African American Artists

  • African American Artists - Slide

  • Pair of andirons

    about 1700

    Description

    Slavery is usually associated with the southern colonies, but early New England had many slaves as well. These andirons descended in the family of Rowland Robinson, who owned a plantation in Saunderstown, Rhode Island, on Narragansett Bay. According to family tradition, these andirons were made by a slave who had been trained as a blacksmith. Both functional and sculptural, the andirons represent the vast body of American art made by slaves, whose names and histories are not well documented.

    Details

    Dimensions

    41.59 x 17.78 x 44.45 cm (16 3/8 x 7 x 17 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Wrought iron

    Classification

    Tools & equipment , Household

    Accession Number

    1979.379a-b

    Collections

    Americas

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Storage jar

    1857

    Dave Drake (or Dave the Potter), American, about 1800–about...

    Description

    Large bulbous food storage jar with open neck, handles on each side, brown alkaline glaze with irregular greenish streaks.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 48.3 cm (19 in.) Diam.: 45.1 cm (17 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Stoneware with alkaline glaze

    Classification

    Ceramics , Pottery , Stoneware

    Accession Number

    1997.10

    Collections

    Americas

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Pictorial quilt

    1895–98

    Harriet Powers, American, 1837–1910

    Description

    Appliqué quilt, dyed and printed cotton fabrics applied to cotton. The quilt is divided into fifteen pictorial rectangles. Worked with pieces of beige, pink, mauve, orange, dark red, gray-green and shades of blue cotton.

    This extraordinary quilt was created by Harriet Powers, an African American woman who was born a slave in Georgia in 1837. Powers is thought to have orally dictated a description of each square of her quilt to Jennie Smith, who had purchased the first quilt Powers made, and arranged for it to be exhibited at the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta in 1895. This second quilt is thought to have been commissioned by a group of "faculty ladies" at Atlanta University, and given (together with Powers's descriptions) as a gift to a retiring trustee. What follows is Powers' descriptions of all fifteen blocks starting in the upper left and moving to the right.

    FIRST ROW:

    1. Job praying for his enemies. Job crosses. Job's coffin.

    2. The dark day of May 19, 1780. The seven stars were seen 12 N. in the day. The cattle wall went to bed, chickens to roost and the trumpet was blown. The sun went off to a small spot and then to darkness.

    3. The serpent lifted up by Moses and women bringing their children to look upon it to be healed.

    4. Adam and Eve in the garden. Eve tempted by the serpent. Adam's rib by which Eve was made. The sun and the moon. God's all-seeing eye and God's merciful hand.

    5. John baptizing Christ and the spirit of God descending and resting upon his shoulder like a dove.

    SECOND ROW:

    6. Jonah cast over board of the ship and swallowed by a whale. Turtles.

    7. God created two of every kind, male and female.

    8. The falling of the stars on Nov. 13, 1833. The people were frightened and thought that the end had come. God's hand staid the stars. The varmints rushed out of their beds.

    9. Two of every kind of animal continued...camels, elephants, "gheraffs," lions, etc.

    10. The angels of wrath and the seven vials. The blood of fornications. Seven-headed beast and 10 horns which arose of the water.

    THIRD ROW:

    11. Cold Thursday, 10 of February, 1895. A woman frozen while at prayer. A woman frozen at a gateway. A man with a sack of meal frozen. Icicles formed from the breath of a mule. All blue birds killed. A man frozen at his jug of liquor.

    12. The red light night of 1846. A man tolling the bell to notify the people of the wonder. Women, children and fowls frightened by God's merciful hand caused no harm to them.

    13. Rich people who were taught nothing of God. Bob Johnson and Kate Bell of Virginia. They told their parents to stop the clock at one and tomorrow it would strike one and so it did. This was the signal that they had entered everlasting punishment. The independent hog which ran 500 miles from Georgia to Virginia, her name was Betts.

    14. The creation of animals continues.

    15. The crucifixion of Christ between the two theives. The sun went into darkness. Mary and Martha weeping at his feet. The blood and water run from his right side.

    Details

    Dimensions

    175 x 266.7 cm (68 7/8 x 105 in.)

    Medium

    Cotton plain weave, pieced, appliqued, embroidered, and quilted

    Classification

    Textiles

    Accession Number

    64.619

    Collections

    Americas , Textiles and Fashion Arts

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Dog's Head of Scotland

    1870

    Robert S. Duncanson, American, 1821–1872

    Description

    Robert S. Duncanson, like most American landscape painters of his generation, traveled abroad to familiarize himself with the monuments of the classical past and to see Europe’s illustrious art collections. He held the distinction of being the first African American artist known to complete such a journey—an accomplishment proudly noted by abolitionists in America. [1]He made two trips, a grand tour in the early 1850s, starting in London and traveling across the Continent to Italy, and a return visit to England, Ireland, and Scotland in the 1860s. During his first tour of England, Duncanson wrote of his admiration for famed British landscapist J. M. W. Turner [13.2723];[2]Duncanson must surely have also seen John Constable’s landscapes and cloud studies [30.731]. The influence of these British painters can be felt in the drama of the breaking storm clouds that dominate Dog’s Head of Scotland.
    This is one of six Scottish landscapes that Duncanson executed late in his career, after he returned to his Cincinnati studio in 1867, at the conclusion of his second trip to Britain. The title of his painting refers to the doglike shape of the jagged cliffs that jut out above the water; while it seems probable that the scene is based upon a real place, the exact location remains unidentified. Duncanson selected a wide canvas to capture the panoramic sweep of the coast. Crashing waves in the foreground, the choppiness of the sea, and the breaking clouds overhead all suggest a storm has recently passed. Men in the foreground haul in the shattered remains of a boat that has been wrecked against the shore. Activity is resuming on the open water, with a number of vessels visible, including two steamers on the far horizon, identifiable by their signature trails of smoke.

    The painter created a series of interlocking shapes in his composition. The water follows an S-shaped curve as it outlines the shoal of sand, and the division between the sky and the rocky horizon is traced with jigsaw precision.The larger scene, defined in broad strokes by clouds and cliffs, is balanced with fine details like the crew dragging in the cracked mast, the warming fire visible near the grounded ship, and the gulls playing over the water. What might seem like an empty expanse is in fact filled with life.

    Duncanson’s canvas is notable for its sophisticated handling of perspective and the play of light across and through space. This is evident in the recession of the cliffs into the atmospheric haze of the distance. A series of successive, layered planes suggest the geology of slabs of stone stacked at varying angles. Light moves across this complexly rendered surface. The artist’s skill is most masterfully and subtly displayed in the volume and depth of the cloud-filled sky. Working with a narrowly constrained palette, just a few blues, grays, and white, and utilizing the warm pink of his ground, Duncanson depicts illuminated banks of clouds and the breaking light that follows a storm, convincingly recreating the effect of sunlight passing through billowing masses of vapor.

    Once thought to have belonged to the impresario P.T. Barnum, Dog’s Head of Scotland was in fact owned by one Thomas Jones Barnum, of Manchester, Missouri—no relation to the famed showman.

    Notes
    1. See Joseph D. Ketner, The Emergence of the African-American Artist: Robert S. Duncanson, 1821–1872 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1993), 71.
    2. Ibid, 72.

    Cody Hartley

    Details

    Dimensions

    66.67 x 125.09 cm (26 1/4 x 49 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1970.496

    Collections

    Americas

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Interior of a Mosque, Cairo

    1897

    Henry Ossawa Tanner, American, 1859–1937 American

    Description

    Now regarded as the preeminent African American painter of the late nineteenth century, Tanner spent most of his career in Paris, a city he found more supportive of his professional ambition than any in the United States. The son of an African Methodist Episcopal bishop, he specialized in figural compositions, most often with biblical themes, exhibiting them at the Paris Salon annually from 1894 to 1914. One of these, The Raising of Lazarus (1896, Musée d’Orsay, Paris), captured the attention of Rodman Wanamaker, a Philadelphia merchant and art patron resident in Paris. Wanamaker, convinced of Tanner’s talent and believing that the artist should see firsthand the sites of the Holy Land that so inspired him, sponsored Tanner’s first trip to the Near East; he followed a long tradition established by painters of the Orientalist movement who took the peoples and places of Turkey, North Africa, and the Middle East as their subjects.
    Tanner left Paris in January 1897, traveling south through France by train to Marseilles, and then by ship to Cairo. From Egypt, he went to Port Said, Jaffa, Jerusalem, Jericho, and the Dead Sea, returning to Alexandria and sailing back to Europe through Naples. He spent just over two months in the Middle East, but the sketches he made during this trip would inform his religious paintings for years to come. During the time he spent in Cairo, Tanner visited numerous mosques, many as yet unidentified: as Tanner put it, “the number of mosques is so great that to remember the names in one day or so is next to impossible.”[1] Despite Tanner’s uncertainty, the location of Interior of a Mosque, Cairo has been identified as the madrasa of Sultan Qaitbey, a Mamluk-dynasty complex originally containing a mosque, a school, and a mausoleum, built between 1472 and 1475.

    Regarded as one of the masterpieces of Islamic architecture in Cairo, the mosque of Qaitbey is famous for its colored and cut marble, geometric patterning, and decorative tile. Tanner shows it as a timeless place of faith and mystery. He depicts the eastern end of the interior, where the mihrab facing Mecca is located, choosing an angled view that shows the curved arches and elaborate marble patterning on two sides of the building. The mihrab wall is decorated with stained glass windows that dapple the floor with light; an elaborately carved wooden minbar (pulpit or lectern) is visible at the left side of the composition. Tanner’s mosque is not merely an architectural monument, however, but an active house of worship: two robed figures face east, presumably engaged in their devotions. For Tanner, pictures were completed not only with paints, but also with spiritual content.

    Tanner inscribed this painting with his name and the place it was made, Cairo, and brought it back with him to France. There he apparently gave it to Charles Hovey Pepper [http://www.mfa.org/search/collections?artist=Charles%20Hovey%20Pepper], a Boston painter who had been one of Tanner’s classmates at the Académie Julian, an art school in Paris that was particularly popular with Americans.

    Notes
    1. Tanner, travel diary, January 20, 1897, quoted in Marcia M. Mathews, Henry Ossawa Tanner: American Artist(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969), 83.

    Erica E. Hirshler

    Details

    Dimensions

    52.1 x 66 cm (20 1/2 x 26 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    2005.92

    Collections

    Americas

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Country Doctor (Night Call)

    1935

    Horace Pippin, American, 1888–1946

    Description

    Horace Pippin was the grandson of slaves and son of a domestic worker and a laborer. He was not trained as an artist and did not complete his first oil painting until 1930, when he was forty-three years old. Injured in his right shoulder while serving in the all-black 369th Infantry Regiment during World War I, Pippin had to hold the brush in his right hand and move it across the canvas with his left. Using this painstaking technique, he painted pictures about his war experiences, the domestic lives of African Americans remembered from his childhood, outdoor scenes, still lifes, religious subjects, and portraits, including the great black singer Marian Anderson (Marian Anderson II, 1941, private collection). Pippin also painted narrative works about anti-slavery figures John Brown and Abraham Lincoln (for example, Trial of John Brown, 1942, de Young Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Abe Lincoln, The Great Emancipator, 1942, Museum of Modern Art, New York). His works rarely contain overt social commentary, but they vividly capture Pippin’s life experiences and those of his heroes.
    In Country Doctor, also known as Night Call, Pippin was able to achieve astonishing effects with a limited palette and an intuitive sense of design. The artist used thin washes of white pigment to convey the heavy snowfall through which a country doctor leads his horse and covered cart, presumably to tend to a patient. Pippin was apparently dissatisfied by the original grayish color of the snow and repainted it a brighter white—the original gray is visible around his signature in the lower right corner. The jagged slash of a small creek in the foreground anchors the composition, while the graceful patterns of the bare tree branches emphasize the cold, nocturnal nature of the journey. A clear path leads into the distance, and footsteps in the snow indicate the progress the doctor and carriage have made. Pippin’s painting quietly celebrates the dauntless and gallant country doctor, then an important part of the American rural scene. In the late 1930s Pippin met the famous Philadelphia collector Albert C. Barnes, who became a champion of his work, thus helping to popularize scenes of black American life by African American artists.

    This text was adapted from Elliot Bostwick Davis et al., American Painting [http://www.mfashop.com/9020398034.html], MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Publications, 2003).

    Details

    Dimensions

    71.44 x 81.6 cm (28 1/8 x 32 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1970.47

    Collections

    Americas

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • My Mother's Hats

    1943

    Loïs Mailou Jones, American, 1905–1998

    Description

    Jones studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and her earliest works are designs for textiles and costumes. In the 1930s, she turned to painting, continuing her studies in Paris. She taught at Howard University from 1930 to 1977 and in 1973 she was the first African-American woman to be given a one-person show at the MFA. This painting, which depicts three elaborate hats designed by Jones's milliner mother, is typical of her richly colored and freely-brushed style of the 1940s.

    Details

    Dimensions

    45.7 x 53.3 cm (18 x 21 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    2005.215

    Collections

    Americas

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Feral Benga

    modeled in 1935

    James Richmond Barthé, American, 1901–1989 American

    Description

    James Richmond Barthé, known for his works depicting the Black experience and for his studies of the male physique, was a leading member of the Harlem Renaissance. Born in Mississippi, he was trained at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Students League in New York.

    Feral Benga has been described as "Barthé's signature piece." It portrays François (a.k.a. Feral) Benga, a Senegalese cabaret dancer, who, like his female counterpart Josephine Baker, created a sensation on the Paris stage with his "carnal choreography often set in steamy and distant places." Barthé saw Benga perform in 1934 and began modeling the sculpture immediately after his return to New York City. The resulting work is a powerful blend of traditional European modes of sculpture combined with elements of modernity and the African American experience.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 47.6 x 17.8 x 11.1 cm (18 3/4 x 7 x 4 3/8 in.)

    Medium

    Bronze, cast

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    2007.1

    Collections

    Americas

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Room No. V

    1948

    Eldzier Cortor, American, born in 1916 American

    Description

    Born in Richmond, Virginia, Cortor and his family relocated to Chicago in 1917 as part of the Great Migration, when many African American families moved from the southern United States to the north in search of jobs. As a child, Cortor attended evening classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and saw African sculpture at the nearby Field Museum. He eventually joined the easel division of the Federal Art Project and became a central figure within Chicago’s dynamic group of African American writers, artists, and performers, who often gathered at the South Side Community Center, where Cortor also taught art classes. Various fellowships enabled Cortor to broaden his horizons, initially in Sea Island, Georgia, where he encountered the Gullah, an African American community that had preserved many of their African traditions, and later in Cuba and Jamaica.

    Cortor observed that he frequently “worked with what’s around me, though sometimes I reach back for something out of my memory.” [1] Room No. 5 is filled with such references. The center of the composition focuses on a female nude reflected in a mirror of a large wooden dresser. “[T]he Black woman,” declared Cortor, “represents the Black race . . . she is the Black Spirit; she conveys a feeling of eternity and continuance of life.” [2] The pose of the woman, with elongated neck and hand resting on her chin, recalls both the influence of African sculpture and a long tradition in European art of images of women and mirrors. Cortor’s nude is surrounded by waning gentility, seen in the tattered carpet and peeling paint and wallpaper. The artist selected a frame with a worn and distressed finish to enhance the mood of his composition.

    Notes
    1. Eldzier Cortor, quoted in Patricia Hills and Melissa Renn, Syncopated Rhythms: 20th-Century African American Art from the George and Joyce Wein Collection, exh. cat. (Boston: Boston University Art Gallery, 2005), 37.
    2. Eldzier Cortor, quoted in Corrine L. Jennings, “Eldzier Cortor: The Long Consistent Road,” in Three Masters: Eldzier Cortor, Hughie Lee-Smith, Archibald John Motley, Jr., by Kenkeleba Gallery, exh. cat. (New York: Kenkeleba Gallery, 1988), 15.

    Janet L. Comey

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height x width: 31 x 27 in. (78.7 x 68.6 cm)

    Medium

    Oil on Masonite

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    2007.2

    Collections

    Americas

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Tire Jumping in Front of My Window

    1936–47

    Allan Rohan Crite, American, 1910–2007

    Description

    Allan Rohan Crite studied at Boston Latin School and at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and by the mid-1930s had begun to win recognition for his lively depictions of the street life of Boston’s South End. He worked in the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project in the 1930s, and from 1940 to 1974 earned his living as an engineering draftsman for the Boston Naval Shipyard. Crite painted and sketched continuously, making street scenes, illustrations of spirituals, and images drawn from the New Testament. He displayed his work in shows organized by the Harmon Foundation (a nonprofit organization established to recognize African American achievement) but gave many of his paintings away, disinterested in self-promotion. Today he is counted among Boston’s most renowned African American painters.
    Tire Jumping in Front of My Window shows the corner of Northampton and Dilworth Streets in Boston’s South End, the neighborhood where Crite lived from infancy:
    [Block quote]
    I lived over that store for forty-six years. I looked out that window, down Northampton Street towards Columbus Avenue African Methodist Episcopal Church . . . Dilworth Street was an important phase in my life, where much of my major work as an artist was produced. [1]
    [/Block quote]
    A group of children line up in the street, taking turns playing with a large tire. Their urban game is witnessed by a vibrant parade of passersby, drawn outdoors by the summer heat. Crite’s figures, deliberately simplified, evince a tender affection for a rich and active African American community. Crite rendered more meticulously the yellow bricks and curved turrets of the streetscape, providing an accurate record of a part of Boston that has undergone significant changes and shifts in fortune over the course of the twentieth century. Crite completed the painting in 1935–36 and slightly reworked it in 1947. He returned to the composition again in a 1977 color print, 2 Dilworth Street, into which he inserted a self-portrait, showing himself as a younger man sketching the identical scene.

    Notes
    1. Allan Rohan Crite, quoted in John Stomberg, “From Downtown to Doughnuts: Realism and the Role of Image in Boston Area Painting,” in Painting in Boston: 1950–2000, ed. Rachel Rosenfield Lafo et al., exh. cat. (Lincoln, Mass.: DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, 2002), 126.

    Janet L. Comey

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height x width: 23 1/2 x 17 1/2 in. (59.7 x 44.5 cm)

    Medium

    Oil on canvasboard

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    2007.3

    Collections

    Americas

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Untitled

    1943

    Wifredo Lam, Cuban, 1902–1982 Cuban

    Description

    Cuban artist Wifredo Lam returned to Havana in 1942 after several decades in Europe working with leading painters, including Pablo Picasso [http://www.mfa.org/search/collections?artist=Pablo%20Picasso&objecttype=54] and many of the Surrealists. Already regarded as a leading surrealist painter, he found new imagery in the Afro-Cuban culture of the Caribbean, where aspects of African spiritualism survived and flourished. Untitled, painted in 1943, shortly after his return to the island, is a synthesis of Cubism, Surrealism, and Afro-Cuban religious beliefs. Lam’s first-person experience of the spiritual practices of Cuba resulted in some of his most original work, allowing him, as he said, to “paint the drama of my country . . . the beauty of the plastic art of the blacks” in a way that he believed conveyed the dignity of the Cuban people and the power of their living faith. [1]

    Rendered on rough burlap, Untitled suggests imaginative aquatic organisms and Cuba’s indigenous tropical flora and fauna. The composition also incorporates whirling, surreal bodies whose forms have sources in Santería, a Caribbean religious tradition that is closely related to the spiritual practices of the Yoruba people of West Africa. For example, the double-headed creature in the upper left is a representation of Shango (sometimes spelled Schango or Changó), a popular orisha (deity) associated with thunder and lightning. In traditional Yoruban sculpture, Shango can be identified by a double-headed axe, a form that appears atop an early twentieth-century Shango staff [1991.1070] in the MFA’s collection. The horseshoe that appears behind Shango is linked to Ogún, an orisha associated with iron and fire. The two tail-like groups of lines, one in the center and the other a little higher and on the right edge, could reference horses, an important symbol of spiritual possession in Afro-Cuban ceremonies. (Horses were a favored subject of Picasso and other modernist painters, as well.) These “tails” also resemble Yoruban ceremonial fly whisks, objects with ritual use and meaning for the Yoruba. In Lam’s painting the eyes—rendered as circles around black dots, a few emphasized in red—and bold outlined forms are similar to the written characters of the Abakuá society, a secret men’s fraternity which originated in Nigeria and Cameroon and was transported to Cuba by slaves in the nineteenth century. Lam would have been familiar with these sources and associations; a pen and ink drawing Lam made in 1946 with similar forms and creatures is titled Schango Schango [66.1064].

    Untitled was purchased directly from Wifredo Lam by American set designer Oliver Smith during a 1945 visit to Havana; that same year Smith was appointed co-director of New York’s American Ballet Theater. Smith retained the painting until his death in 1994. It eventually passed into the collection of George and Joyce Wein, the founders and leading lights behind the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island and other musical festivals and events. Along with Untitled, the MFA acquired seven other works from the Wein Collection [2007.1, 2007.2, 2007.3, 2007.5, 2007.6, 2007.250, 2007.649] in 2007, significantly expanding the Museum’s representation of artists active throughout the Americas.

    Notes
    1. Wifredo Lam, quoted in David Craven, Art and Revolution in Latin America 1910–1990 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 109.

    Cody Hartley

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height x width: 24 x 31 in. (61 x 78.7 cm)

    Medium

    Oil on burlap

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    2007.4

    Collections

    Americas

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Harlem Jazz Jamboree

    1943

    Norman Lewis, American, 1909–1979

    Description

    Born and raised in Harlem, Norman Lewis began his formal artistic training at the New York Vocational High School, studying commercial design and drawing. He later attended the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts and studied at the John Reed Club Art School from 1933-35. Lewis was a central figure in the African American community and a member of the "306" group of artists, writers, poets, and performing artists who met at 306 East 141st Street. In 1937 he formed the federally funded Harlem Community Art Center, where he taught, and was employed by the Federal Art Project funded by the Works Progress Administration.

    Lewis lived and worked in the center of the jazz world, which inspired many of his compositions. His early paintings of the 1930s and 40s reveal his interest in Social Realism. In this scene, the artist vividly portrays the energy and variety of characters that populated Harlem's jazz clubs. Lively black outlines punctuated with brilliant red paint delineate the silhouettes, poses, gestures, and expressions at the jamboree. Whether singing, playing, smoking, listening, or smirking, an animated jumble of features, textures and colors evokes the crowd. The syncopation of hot reds and cool blues in Lewis's scene harmonize with the sounds and improvisational riffs of jazz music.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height x width: 18 x 16 in. (45.7 x 40.6 cm)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    2007.5

    Collections

    Americas

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • The Dressing Table

    1945

    John Wilson, American, born in 1922 American

    Description

    John Wilson is best known today as a sculptor, particularly for his monumental work, Eternal Presence, which anchors the exterior of Boston's National Center of Afro-American Artists. In addition to his three-dimensional works, Wilson has been active as a painter and draftsman throughout his career. Educated at Roxbury Memorial High School, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (graduating with highest honors), and at Tufts University, Wilson began his career teaching painting at the Boris Mirski School of Modern Art in Boston. He spent several years in Paris in the late 1940s, studying with the French painter Fernand Léger, and he traveled to Mexico in the 1950s, at that time devoting himself to large scale public murals. Wilson worked in Chicago and New York before accepting a position at Boston University's School for the Arts in 1964, where he taught from 1965 until 1984. Wilson, who continues to draw, sculpt, and exhibit, had an exhibition at the MFA in 1995.

    "The Dressing Table" was painted the year Wilson graduated from the SMFA. It was first exhibited at the prestigious annual exhibition of the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh in 1945. The sitter is Wilson's sister, who poses clothed for a summer party, flowers surrounding her in the printed fabric of her gown, on the wallpaper, and in her hair. Wilson added texture to the surface of his picture by scratching into the liquid pigment with the end of his brush, creating animated details in the woman's hair, her necklace, and her dress. The model appears as a modern Venus, her features revealed to the viewer only in the mirror's reflection. The solemnity of her expression and the solidity of her form are characteristic of Wilson's dignified approach to the human figure.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height x width: 28 x 15 1/2 in. (71.1 x 39.4 cm)

    Medium

    Oil on paperboard

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    2007.6

    Collections

    Americas

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Necklace

    about 1958

    Art Smith, American, born in Cuba, 1917–1982 American (born in...

    Description

    Large silver necklace comprised of three free-form elements each with three applied bezel-set stones (semi-precious). Framed and connected by hammered flat curved silver elements.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 43.8 x 26 x 1.9 cm (17 1/4 x 10 1/4 x 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Silver; turquoise, rhodochrosite, chrysoprase, and amethyst (or garnet)

    Classification

    Jewelry / Adornment , Necklaces, Neck Bands

    Accession Number

    2006.537

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Jewelry

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • "Lava" bracelet

    about 1946

    Art Smith, American, born in Cuba, 1917–1982 American (born in...

    Description

    Large cuff bracelet constructed with two biomorphic shapes, each cut from flat copper and brass sheets, with the smaller brass soldered on top of the larger copper form

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 14.6 x 7 x 5.1 cm (5 3/4 x 2 3/4 x 2 in.)

    Medium

    Copper, brass

    Classification

    Jewelry / Adornment , Bracelets, Armlets

    Accession Number

    2006.532

    Collections

    Americas , Jewelry

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • "Modern Cuff" bracelet

    about 1948

    Art Smith, American, born in Cuba, 1917–1982 American (born in...

    Description

    Cuff bracelet made of a single cut and bent piece of copper, pierced and attached to brass wires, each terminating in brass sphere

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 10.8 x 6.4 x 5.7 cm, 105.7 gm (4 1/4 x 2 1/2 x 2 1/4 in., 0.2 lb.)

    Medium

    Copper and brass

    Classification

    Jewelry / Adornment , Bracelets, Armlets

    Accession Number

    2006.531

    Collections

    Americas , Jewelry

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • "Half & Half" Necklace

    about 1948

    Art Smith, American, born in Cuba, 1917–1982 American (born in...

    Description

    Half solid pierced by open, undulating wire work.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 17.8 x 20.3 x 3.2 cm (7 x 8 x 1 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Brass

    Classification

    Jewelry / Adornment , Necklaces, Neck Bands

    Accession Number

    2006.536

    Collections

    Americas , Jewelry

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • "Patina" neckpiece

    1955

    Art Smith, American, born in Cuba, 1917–1982 American (born in...

    Description

    C-shaped silver necklace with three boomerang-shaped elements each with a pierced oval opening, two are suspended below from hoop links, one is stationary.
    Textured surface.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 27.6 x 16.5 x 1.9 cm (10 7/8 x 6 1/2 x 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Silver

    Classification

    Jewelry / Adornment , Necklaces, Neck Bands

    Accession Number

    2006.535

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Jewelry

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Untitled (Outside the Liberty Theater)

    1950

    Artist Gordon Parks, American, 1912–2006

    Description

    Gordon Parks—best known as a photojournalist , but also active as a filmmaker, poet, novelist, and musician—once described his camera as a "weapon against poverty and racism." Parks began a decades long career at Life magazine in 1948, where he gained a reputation for his sensitive portrayals of the human condition. This is one of five Parks photographs owned by the MFA. It depicts a black couple outside a segregated cinema ironically called the Liberty Theater.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Image/Sheet: 34.2 x 23.4 cm (13 7/16 x 9 3/16 in.)

    Medium

    Photograph, gelatin silver print

    Classification

    Photographs

    Accession Number

    2002.110

    Collections

    Americas , Photography

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Café Comedian

    1957

    Jacob Lawrence, American, 1917–2000

    Description

    Throughout his career of more than sixty years Jacob Lawrence, one of America's most important and respected black artists, told the story of African American lives and culture through figurative paintings, often in series and frequently with biting social commentary. Lawrence achieved success at an astonishingly early age, holding his first one-man exhibition by the time he was twenty. He had moved to Harlem from Philadelphia at the age of thirteen, in 1931, and he benefited from the flowering of black culture known as the Harlem Renaissance. Much of his art was stimulated by the writers, musicians, and artists of this cultural movement, as well as by the street-corner orators who related episodes of black history that were not included in textbooks.

    In 1942 Lawrence executed a series of thirty paintings relating to life in Harlem. He revisited this subject in the mid-1950s, exploring the world of entertainment which had drawn many to Harlem since the 1920s. "Café Comedian" displays Lawrence's use of bold colors and patterns, a legacy from his early days when he noticed that people were so poor that they decorated their homes with bold colors and patterns to brighten their lives. In the painting, these syncopated hues and textures-especially the note-like designs cascading down the pink walls-serve as the visual expression of the music being played by the trio of musicians in the background. Eschewing linear perspective, Lawrence has indicated the position of the performers in an alcove or adjoining room by means of their smaller scale and their placement higher in the painting.

    Lawrence's style has been compared to Pablo Picasso's Synthetic Cubism and also to collage, both of which convey spatial depth through the overlapping of flat forms. Knowledgeable about Western art traditions, Lawrence had often visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a teenager. There, he studied the social criticism of artists such as Honoré Daumier and the narrative elements and use of tempera paint in early Renaissance paintings. Rather than oils, Lawrence consistently used opaque water-based paints, which dictated his flat, two-dimensional forms. He often left areas unpainted and let the ground show through, as in the bartender's hand seen here.

    Despite its bright colors, "Café Comedian" conveys an underlying sense of melancholy. This emotion is evident in the darker colors in the bottom half of the painting and most especially in the morose facial expressions of the men at the bar. Such ambiguity is common in Lawrence's work of the 1950s.

    This text was adapted from Davis, et al., MFA Highlights: American Painting (Boston, 2003) available at www.mfashop.com/mfa-publications.html.

    Details

    Dimensions

    58.42 x 73.66 cm (23 x 29 in.)

    Medium

    Casein on paper

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1990.378

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • The Pool Game

    1970

    Jacob Lawrence, American, 1917–2000

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 56 x 76 cm (22 1/16 x 29 15/16 in.) Framed: 73 x 95.6 cm (28 3/4 x 37 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Opaque watercolor

    Classification

    Watercolors

    Accession Number

    1971.65

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Prints and Drawings

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • The White Wheel of W.T.H.

    about 1967

    John E. Dowell, American, born in 1941 American

    Description

    Visual artist and Jazz musician John Dowell studied printmaking at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles in the 1960s, and now heads the Printmaking Division at Temple University in Philadelphia. His abstract prints and drawings often serve as visual equivalents of musical ideas, and can function as a "score" from which musicians take inspiration to improvise in live performance. The title of this enigmatic print refers to an incident in 1967 at a bar in West Terre Haute, Indiana, where Dowell, invited out by some of his students for an evening of music, found that black patrons were not welcome.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Platemark: 45.7 x 60.9 cm (18 x 24 in.) Sheet: 56.2 x 71.1 cm (22 1/8 x 28 in.)

    Medium

    Etching and aquatint

    Classification

    Prints

    Accession Number

    2005.389

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Prints and Drawings

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Mysteries

    1964

    Romare Bearden, American, 1911–1988

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 28.6 x 36.2 cm (11 1/4 x 14 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Collage with hand applied color

    Classification

    Collages

    Accession Number

    1971.63

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Family

    1967–68

    Romare Bearden, American, 1911–1988

    Description

    In his large-scale paper collage Family, which includes photographic imagery as well as hand-drawn passages and areas of solid color, Bearden imagines a family group that transcends both race and gender boundaries. Two women stand next to a table with a vessel and basin. One of the women, her hair in a bun, holds an infant in her arms while the other raises her hand over the child's head. The woman on the right has what appears to be a man's hand and white cuff, perhaps a reference to our expectations of a father figure in her place. In a further ambiguity, the left figure's raised hand is composed of both black paper and snippets from a photograph of caucasian fingers.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 142.2 x 111.8 cm (56 x 44 in.) Framed: 148 x 117.2 x 7.6 cm (58 1/4 x 46 1/8 x 3 in.)

    Medium

    Collage on canvas

    Classification

    Collages

    Accession Number

    1971.64

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Study for the Sculpture "Eternal Presence"

    1972

    Artist John Wilson, American, born in 1922 American

    Description

    Boston native John Wilson received his early training at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. His post-graduate studies took him to Paris, where he studied with Fernand Léger, and later to Mexico City, where the socially engaged work of the Mexican muralists helped to define his own style. This boldly drawn head is one from a series of preparatory studies for a monumental bronze sculpture commissioned by the Museum of the National Center for Afro-American Artists (NCAAA) in Boston.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Sight: 97.1 x 89cm (38 1/4 x 35 1/16in.) Framed: 102.9 x 94.6 cm (40 1/2 x 37 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Black crayon on paper

    Classification

    Drawings

    Accession Number

    1997.101

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Prints and Drawings

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    1985

    Artist John Wilson, American, born in 1922 American

    Description

    This sensitive portrayal of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was made in preparation for a bronze bust, commissioned for the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. by the National Endowment for the Arts and installed there in 1986. Wilson aimed to create an idealization of King, rather than a photographic likeness, in order to better convey his universal significance. (In 2005, the MFA purchased a large-scale etching by Wilson based on this drawing, along with the copper printing plate and twenty progressive proofs leading up to the finished print.)

    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 55.7 x 52.9 cm (21 15/16 x 20 13/16 in.) Framed: 74 x 74 cm (29 1/8 x 29 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Black and white pastel on paper

    Classification

    Drawings

    Accession Number

    1997.102

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Prints and Drawings

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Leslie

    1972

    John Wilson, American, born in 1922 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 60.8 x 48.1 cm (23 15/16 x 18 15/16 in.) Framed: 85.7 x 67.3 cm (33 3/4 x 26 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Charcoal on paper

    Classification

    Drawings

    Accession Number

    2002.619

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Prints and Drawings

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Ubi Girl from Tai Region

    1972

    Loïs Mailou Jones, American, 1905–1998

    Description

    "Ubi Girl from Tai Region" depicts a young woman from the Tai Region of Liberia whose face is painted for the initiation into womanhood. Jones suggests the unification of Africa in this work by displaying two Congolese masks and the profile of a great fetish from the Ivory Coast alongside her Liberian model. This work symbolizes Jones's reclamation of her African heritage following a trip she took to Africa when she was in her sixties.

    Details

    Dimensions

    111.1 x 152.4 cm (43 3/4 x 60 in.)

    Medium

    Acrylic on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1974.410

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Clock

    1979–80

    Frank E. Cummings III, American, born in 1938 American

    Description

    Ebony and ivory case with three curved glass panels. The case rests upon a free-form stand made of ebony with ivory caps. All parts of the clock works are visible. The handmade wheels have outer rims of African blackwood, and centers of hand-carved ivory. Pinions and arbors are made of highly polished ivory, and each pinion is capped with a star sapphire set in gold. The clock is operated by two ivory and ebony weights with ivory pulleys. The two-day clock chimes on the hour; the resonater is made of African blackwood.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 172.7 x 61 x 40.6 cm (68 x 24 x 16 in.)

    Medium

    Ebony, ivory, African blackwood, 14 kt gold, black star sapphires, glass

    Classification

    Furniture , Clocks

    Accession Number

    2004.563

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Bench

    1982–83

    Rudolph Robinson, American, 1937–1988 American

    Description

    Laminated and carved construction, legs attached with multiple through tenons. Keel-shaped underside; keel merges with legs. Legs canted outward, pointed arch at bottom. Shallow shannel carved along keel and edges of legs. "V"-shaped area of chip carving on underside of each end. Profile of top flares at ends, bows out in middle. Oil finish.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 40.6 x 267 x 50.2 cm (16 x 105 1/8 x 19 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Padouk

    Classification

    Furniture , Seating and Beds

    Accession Number

    1983.151

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • On the Tundra

    1986

    Martin Puryear, American, born in 1941 American

    Description

    This minimalist sculptural form suggests a falcon perched on a rock, birds which have fascinated Puryear since his youth. Created in an edition of five, each falcon sculpture bears a slightly different color patina, relating the work to the range in color of falcons themselves. Puryear draws a symbolic parallel in "On the Tundra" between the long-distance migratory patterns of falcons and African American identity and nomadic societies.

    Details

    Dimensions

    49.5 x 24.1 x 29.2cm (19 1/2 x 9 1/2 x 11 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Cast iron

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1991.620

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Dream 2: King & The Sisterhood

    1988

    Faith Ringgold, American, born in 1930 American

    Description

    "Dream 2: King and the Sisterhood" is a story quilt collaboration between Ringgold and her daughter, Michele Wallace, a feminist writer and cultural critic, that combines stitching with, writing, and painting. It chronicles the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, the civil rights movement, and the contributions of women freedom fighters. The work reconsiders the public and private life of King from the perspective of African American women and shows King's appreciation of their role in the struggle.

    Details

    Dimensions

    243.8 x 152.4 cm (96 x 60 in.)

    Medium

    Acrylic on canvas, pieced, dyed, and printed fabric

    Classification

    Textiles

    Accession Number

    1991.625

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Textiles and Fashion Arts

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Madonna of Dudley Station (Curve in the Tracks). Number 4 from...

    1987

    Allan Rohan Crite, American, 1910–2007

    Description

    Allan Rohan Crite, an SMFA graduate from the 1930s, has lived in Boston's South End for nine decades and is that neighborhood's greatest chronicler of African-American life. Two major themes have dominated the artist's long career: everyday depictions of the African-American community, and Biblical illustrations with black protagonists. He often combined the two, as in his 1946 painting Madonna of the Subway, which imagines a black Virgin Mary and Christ Child riding the Orange Line. Crite revisited the subject forty years later in this series of thirteen superbly drawn lithographs.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Image: 26.4 x 40.4cm (10 3/8 x 15 7/8in.) Sheet: 27.9 x 43.2 cm (11 x 17 in.)

    Medium

    Offset lithograph

    Classification

    Prints

    Accession Number

    2002.329

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Prints and Drawings

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Nursing Madonna (Number 3 from the series Madonnas of Transportation)

    1987

    Allan Rohan Crite, American, 1910–2007

    Description

    In his series Madonnas of Transportation, Boston painter and printmaker Allan Rohan Crite places a black Madonna and Child in African dress amidst the everyday settings of the city's public transportation system, alternately sharing a crowded subway car with other passengers or, as here, in quiet contemplation. In his late seventies at the time, Crite executed the series with a small home printing press on standard 11x17 copy paper.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Image: 26.4 x 40.4cm (10 3/8 x 15 7/8in.) Sheet: 27.9 x 43.2 cm (11 x 17 in.)

    Medium

    Offset lithograph

    Classification

    Prints

    Accession Number

    2002.330

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Prints and Drawings

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Jack Johnson

    1987

    Richard Yarde, American, 1939 - 2011

    Description

    Local painter Richard Yarde was born in Boston and currently resides in Northhampton. He studied art at Boston University and has been a Professor of Fine Art at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst for many years. Yarde is perhaps best known for his extraordinary facility with watercolor. This work, a portrait of the first black heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson, exhibits several characteristics typical of Yarde's technique: a tendency to divide his backgrounds into irregular tiles of solid color, and a propensity to expand the boundaries of his evolving compositions by collaging on additional sheets of paper.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet (three attached sheets):102.9 x 57.0 cm (40 1/2 x 22 7/16 in.) Framed: 108.6 x 62.9 cm (42 3/4 x 24 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Watercolor on paper

    Classification

    Watercolors

    Accession Number

    1995.755

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Prints and Drawings

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Miss America

    1987–88

    Lyle Ashton Harris, American, born in 1965

    Description

    "Miss America" is a studio photograph of a friend of the artist that mirrors the glamour and theatricality of beauty contests. Harris uses white face powder on his African American model, which inverts the blackface performance of minstrel shows. This work illustrates the limitations of the pageant by pointing out the lack of an African American Miss America for many years.

    Details

    Dimensions

    152.4 x 101.6 cm (60 x 40 in.)

    Medium

    Photograph, gelatin silver print

    Classification

    Photographs

    Accession Number

    1995.684

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Photography

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • The Differences Between

    1989

    Betye Saar, American, born in 1926

    Description

    "The Difference Between" investigates the complex multi-racial heritage of many African Americans. Saar combs flea markets and garage sales to gather materials to use in her work, as she believes cast off objects to be imbued with memories, dreams, and history. The Victorian photograph at the heart of Saar's romantic and nostalgic assemblage shows a white man and woman of African or Native American ancestry whose formal postures communicate an uneasy alliance.

    Details

    Dimensions

    41.9 x 33 x 3.8 cm (16 1/2 x 13 x 1 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Mixed media

    Classification

    Mixed media

    Accession Number

    1991.533

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Marching to a Different Drummer

    1989

    Robert Colescott, American, 1925–2009 American

    Description

    In "Marching to a Different Drummer" the figures and props surrounding the central African-American figure reveal him to be a white-collar worker who has received his university education on a sports scholarship. He "marches" with white America, but the pained look on his face and the ball chained to his foot demonstrate the extent to which his black heritage is both ever-present and ever-compromised. Colescott's work comments on white perceptions of blacks and black perceptions of whites and of themselves and shows how racism and self-imposed inferiority define black identity.

    Details

    Dimensions

    213.4 x 182.9 cm (84 x 72 in.)

    Medium

    Acrylic on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1990.494

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Untitled (James Baldwin)

    1990

    Glenn Ligon, American, born in 1960 American

    Description

    Ligon's paintings present quotations that expose the dangers of speaking simplistically about African-American identity in art and in life. The text of Untitled features words spoken by James Baldwin (1924-1987) in an interview late in his life. Baldwin states the difficulties and restrictions faced by African American artists who feel obliged to create "an official version of the black experience" for the white cultural establishment. Ligon's long skinny canvas makes it difficult to read, and in this respect seems to be a metaphor for the limitations of communication.

    Details

    Dimensions

    15.9 x 213.4 cm (6 1/4 x 84 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1991.546

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • She

    1992

    Lorna Simpson, American, born in 1960

    Description

    Simpson’s faceless portraits undermine traditional notions of portraiture. They also raise questions about gender: the work’s title and the plaque above the photographs may declare the subject is “female,” but the tailored suit, hand gestures, and body language may suggest the opposite. Together, these details confront how easily one might define identity, race, or sexual orientation through stereotypical notions. In this instance, do we place more trust in the word or the image?

    Details

    Dimensions

    29 x 85 1/4 inches (73.6 x 216.5 cm)

    Medium

    Framed polaroids and plaque

    Classification

    Photographs

    Accession Number

    1992.204a-e

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Photography

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Untitled

    1993

    Lorna Simpson, American, born in 1960

    Description

    In this unique print by conceptual photographer Lorna Simpson, a pair of empty dress shoes is juxtaposed with the pedals of an old piano. Simpson's subtle addition of ligh-brown watercolor to the shoes brings to mind the hand-tinting of nineteenth-century photographs, perhaps suggesting a narrative about family history and loss. Below the image an intentionally ambiguous text reads, "What should fit here is an oblique story about absence, but I can't remember the short version."

    Details

    Dimensions

    Platemark (left): 73 x 54.5 cm (28 3/4 x 21 7/16 in.) Platemark (right): 73 x 40.5 cm (28 3/4 x 15 15/16 in.) Sheet: 89.9 x 115.7 cm (35 3/8 x 45 9/16 in.) Framed: 95.6 x 121 x 5.1 cm (37 5/8 x 47 5/8 x 2 in.)

    Medium

    Photogravure from two plates with screenprinted lettering and hand additions in watercolor

    Classification

    Prints

    Accession Number

    1997.203

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Prints and Drawings

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • The Seventies

    1991

    Nayland Blake, American, born in 1960 American

    Description

    "The Seventies" displays the adolescent Blake's identification with musicians who personified the rebellious spirit and raw power of rock and roll. This retrospective of the decade documents cultural trends- such as heavy metal and androgynous, punk fashion- with an alarming insight into the speed at which commercialized popular culture changes. The metal frame and backing simulates the monolithic rock music business and its obsession with packaging and promotional hype.

    Details

    Dimensions

    95.3 x 127.3 cm (37 1/2 x 50 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Photograph, chromogenic prints in aluminum frame

    Classification

    Photographs

    Accession Number

    1991.700

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Photography

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Target Practice: Take This! Take That!, from the series Life with...

    1994

    Joseph Norman, American, born in 1957 American

    Description

    This drawing comes from a series called Life with Heather, in which the artist uses metaphor to explore interpersonal relationships. "When we get into an argument," Norman says, "we tend to target the same issues and like driving nails in our hearts, we hammer away with painful words. Even apologizing cannot remove the scars left in our hearts (or the holes left in the wood)." Norman, who grew up on Chicago's south side, taught drawing at the Rhode Island School of Design during the 1990s, and since 2001 has served as Chair of Painting and Drawing at the University of Georgia, Athens.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 127 x 96.8 cm (50 x 38 1/8 in.) Framed: 133 x 102.6 x 5.1 cm (52 3/8 x 40 3/8 x 2 in.)

    Medium

    Charcoal and ink on paper

    Classification

    Drawings

    Accession Number

    1995.718

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Prints and Drawings

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Tally

    1994

    Ellen Gallagher, American, born in 1965

    Description

    Through her emphasis on cultural identity, Ellen Gallagher both incorporates and rejects the minimalist language of art. Lined grade-school paper is glued by the artist onto the canvas, creating a grid pattern. Gallagher enhanced the lines with blue graphite pencil and a thin overlay of oils in a neutral tone. She then used the space to insert her own language of signs, starting at the left and moving to the right, thereby transforming the medium of painting into a form of writing. In this painting the abstract pattern of lines and dots is interrupted by images. Red lips and wide eyeballs refer to the racial stereotypes of the 19th century American minstrel show, in which white actors in blackface impersonated African-American characters.

    Details

    Dimensions

    213.4 x 182.9 cm (84 x 72 in.)

    Medium

    Oil, pencil and paper on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1994.278

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Basket with lid

    1992

    Mary A. Jackson, American, born in 1945 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall height: 43.2cm (17in.); Diam: 45.7cm (18in.)

    Medium

    Sweet grass, pine needles, bull rush, and palmetto fiber

    Classification

    Basketry

    Accession Number

    1992.523a-b

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Man Spirit Mask

    1999

    Willie Cole, American, born in 1955 American

    Description

    The iron holds a complex network of meanings for Willie Cole, recalling the domestic servitude of many African-American women (Cole's mother and grandmother both worked as housekeepers), but also referring through its shape to slave ships and African tribal art. Here he superimposes the pattern of holes from a steam iron over his own self-portrait, alluding to the ritualistic tattooing and scarification of tribal culture as well as the branding of slaves. The spectral image in the central panel was screenprinted onto handmade paper with lemon juice which turned brown under the application of a heat gun. Cole's self-portrait appears again in the right panel, inverted and obscured by an iron wondrously transformed into an African mask.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Platemark: 99.4 x 67.3 cm (39 1/8 x 26 1/2 in.) Sheet: 99.4 x 67.3 cm (39 1/8 x 26 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Photo etching printed in brown, with embossing, hand coloring in lemon juice, and scorching (left panel of triptych)

    Classification

    Prints

    Accession Number

    2005.125.1

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Prints and Drawings

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Man Spirit Mask

    1999

    Willie Cole, American, born in 1955 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Platemark: 67.3 x 99.4 cm (26 1/2 x 39 1/8 in.) Sheet: 67.3 x 99.4 cm (26 1/2 x 39 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Screenprint with lemon juice and scorching (center panel of triptych)

    Classification

    Prints

    Accession Number

    2005.125.2

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Prints and Drawings

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Man Spirit Mask

    1999

    Willie Cole, American, born in 1955 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Platemark: 67.3 x 99.4 cm (26 1/2 x 39 1/8 in.) Sheet: 67.3 x 99.4 cm (26 1/2 x 39 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Photo etching and color woodcut (right panel of triptych)

    Classification

    Prints

    Accession Number

    2005.125.3

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Prints and Drawings

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Wooden slip case for leather bound edition of Cane, by Jean...

    2000

    Designed by Martin Puryear, American, born in 1941 American

    Description

    In his 1923 novel Cane, Harlem Renaissance author Jean Toomer used an innovative mixture of poetry, prose, and drama to contrast African-American life in the rural South with the urban experience of the North. This deluxe edition of the book is illustrated with ten woodcuts by sculptor Martin Puryear. Puryear also designed the slipcase, made of four different woods (African wenge, Swiss pear, Italian walnut, and New England maple) meant to represent a range of skin tones.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 34.9 x 38.4 x 4.8 cm (13 3/4 x 15 1/8 x 1 7/8 in.)

    Medium

    Wooden slip case made of four different woods meant to represent different skin tones: African wenge, Swiss pear, Italian walnut, and New England maple

    Classification

    Object accessories , Object accessories

    Accession Number

    2002.904.10

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Bon Chance en Fer (Good Luck in Iron)

    2000

    Melvin Edwards, American, born in 1937 American

    Description

    During the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, Edwards began an ongoing series of sculptures called Lynch Fragments comprised of chains, locks, railroad ties and other materials evoking the African-American experience of injustice. Each welded assemblage is about the size of a human head and intended to be wall-mounted at eye level. The ironically titled Good Luck in Iron is analogous to these sculptures in its depiction of the hardware of subjugation, and its suggestion of a pair of faces. More a sculpture than a print in the conventional sense, it was made of dyed paper pulp with coiled chains used as stencils.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 43 x 56 cm (16 15/16 x 22 1/16 in.)

    Medium

    Stenciled cotton rag pulp on linen fiber paper, and pigment

    Classification

    Prints

    Accession Number

    2004.459

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Prints and Drawings

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Nesting IV

    2000

    Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, American, born in Cuba in 1959

    Description

    Born in Cuba of Nigerian descent and living in Boston since 1991, Campos-Pons uses her work to reflect on the complicated meaning of home. The artist's process-oriented work makes use of Polaroid film to create unique pieces that combine performance with photography and painting. Often taking the form of a series of photographs, as in this work, it is divided into four visually similar but distinct images that relate to one another but avoid a predictable narrative. The audience is left to construct their own story out of the disparate clues in the pictures, taking into account the artist's expression and the composition of the panels in order to interpret a meaning. Both revealing and mysterious, this work suggests longing, perhaps for a past home, through the artist's closed eyes.

    Campos-Pons' works in a variety of media. In addition to photographs, she also creates sculpture, drawings, video, textiles, sound and installations. This mixture of media is similar to the mixture of different cultural influences and symbolic references in the artist's work. Campos-Pons is interested in the idea of "transculturation", or the process by which cultures become mixed hybrids of different influences, just as the artist herself is a product of her Cuban upbringing and her time in the United States.

    Details

    Dimensions

    4 photographs, overall 83.8 x 254.0 cm (33 x 100 in.)

    Medium

    Four dye-diffusion photographs (Polaroid prints)

    Classification

    Photographs

    Accession Number

    2001.271.1-4

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Photography

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • Not Manet's Type

    1997 (inscribed 2001)

    Carrie Mae Weems, American, born in 1953 American

    Description

    Each of the prints in photographer Carrie Mae Weems' five-part series Not Manet's Type is comprised of a nude self-portrait with a brief inscription below. Here the text reads, "It was clear, I was not Manet's type. Picasso-who had a way with women-only used me and Duchamp never even considered me." Each of these sardonic statements may be read as both a feminist response to the way male artists have used women's bodies and a commentary on the role of black women in particular in the history of modern art.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Framed: 114.8 x 64 x 1.9 cm (45 3/16 x 25 3/16 x 3/4 in.) Sheet: 101.6 x 50.8 cm (40 x 20 in.)

    Medium

    Offset photolithograph

    Classification

    Postcards , Envelopes

    Accession Number

    2005.1253

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art , Prints and Drawings

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia
  • The Rich Soil Down There

    2002

    Kara Walker, American, born in 1969

    Description

    In 19th-century America, many homes boasted cut-paper silhouettes framed on a wall. Small and delicate, the silhouettes preserved the profiles of loved ones or showed happy domestic scenes. Walker has transformed this sweet, safe tradition, making elaborate tableaux of racial and sexual violence in the pre-Civil War South. Her open-ended scenes do not tell a simple tale. Instead, their ambiguity is meant as a prompt for our own ideas and thoughts.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 180 1/16 x 396 1/8 in. (15 x 33 ft.) - dimensions variable

    Medium

    Cut paper and adhesive on painted wall

    Classification

    Silhouettes

    Accession Number

    2005.339

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art

    Not On View
    More Info
    Multimedia

Contents