History Refused to Die-Alabama's African-American Self-Taught Artists in Context

March 14 - May 31, 2015


Introductory wall panel text from the exhibition

The fifteen artists whose works are included in this exhibition are all Alabamians who live, or lived, here in the state. Not formally trained as artists, and therefore sometimes referred to as "self-taught," their works transcend the labels that have been applied to them. It is not conventional art, and the artists did not use traditional art materials. This work possesses its own vocabulary; it has its own distinctive voice, and tells a powerful story of the lives, history, and culture of African-Americans in Alabama in the twentieth century.
As modern Americans, our understanding of "art" is largely dependent on historical and cultural precedents that have shaped our perceptions -- art is what we see in galleries, rather than around us in our day-to-day lives. It is "art" when someone who knows about art tells us it is. These objects arose outside of the system of schools, galleries and museums, and they were made for reasons that are as distinctive and individual as the makers themselves. However, like every visual artist, they wanted, and needed, to communicate -- to make tangible their expressions of personal and cultural history, their community, their place in Alabama and in the larger the world.
As we move along in time and enter a new century, we begin to see the critical mass of these works converge and emerge. Their relevance to the larger art and culture of twentieth-century America is only beginning to be appreciated and understood, but inevitably these works of art, and the artists who made them, are becoming part of the larger fabric of the history of art.
History Refused to Die is organized by the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in conjunction with Souls Grown Deep Foundation, and Tinwood, LLC, Atlanta, Georgia.  Sponsorship for the exhibition and education programming was provided by Regions Bank and The Central Alabama Community Foundation. Additional funding has been provided by the Alabama Humanities Foundation and Harmon, Dennis, Bradshaw. A related exhibition is on view at the Alabama Contemporary Art Center in Mobile, Alabama from March 14, 2015 through December 20, 2015.

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