Common Ground: African American Art from the Flint Institute of Arts, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, and the Muskegon Museum of Art
February 8, 2015 - April 26, 2015
Common Ground traces the history of African American art from the 19th-century to today through paintings, sculpture, drawings, and photographs. After slavery was abolished, poverty and prevailing institutional racism made it extremely difficult for African Americans to pursue careers as painters or sculptors. However, African American artists continued to persevere, creating some of the most influential art over the past 150 years.
In the early 20th century, many artists began to form their own artistic identity. During the period of the Harlem Renaissance, African American artists portrayed their people, demonstrating the awakening of an African American consciousness. Responding to the struggle for Civil Rights, artists in the late 20th and into the 21st century created works that expressed political and social concerns including racism, poverty, segregation, and social injustice.
Artists include Benny Andrews, Elizabeth Catlett, Hughie Lee-Smith, Chakaia Booker, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Kara Walker, and Kehinde Wiley. Many of the artists are advocates for social change and believe art can act as a catalyst to transform the world in which they live. The works deal with African American identity and what it means to be an African American during the various time periods presented.
Sidney and Margaret Stewart Endowment Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint
From the Exhibition
Hughie Lee-Smith, American, 1915-1999, Aprés-Midi, 1987, oil on canvas, 36 x 46 inches. Collection of Muskegon Museum of Art.
Willie Birch, American, b. 1942, Woman Reading Magazine, 1999, acrylic and charcoal on paper, 60 x 60 inches. Flint Institute of Arts. Museum purchase, 2011.1
Chakaia Booker, American, b. 1953, India Blue, 2001, rubber tires and wood, 73 x 43 inches. Flint Institute of Arts. Bequest of Russell J. Cameron, by exchange, and partial gift from the Friends of Modern Art, 2002.11
Karsten Creightney, American, b. 1976, Crossroads, 2010, collage, watercolor, acrylic, oil and wax on wood panel, 48 x 72 inches. Flint Institute of Arts. Museum purchase, 2011.328
William A. Harper, American, b. Canada, 1873 –1910, French Landscape, ca. 1905-9, oil on canvas, 13 5/8 x 11 1/8 inches. Flint Institute of Arts. Gift of the Founders Society, 2000.65