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Landscape of Slavery: The Plantation in American Art

August 23 - October 19, 2008


Organized by the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina, Landscape of Slavery: The Plantation in American Art opens to the public on August 23, and remains on view through October 19, 2008 at the Morris Museum of Art. This groundbreaking exhibition offers a comprehensive, interdisciplinary examination of plantation images in the American South. 

Angela D. Mack, executive director of the Gibbes,explains the inspiration for the project, "The mission of the Gibbes is to tell the story of the visual culture of the South, and the plantation has been (and still continues to be) a defining characteristic of the history and present state of the region. The museum's collection includes several important works related to the subject, and we were inspired to lead an effort to unravel the realities and fictions that surround the subject matter." 

The exhibition includes paintings, works on paper, and photographs, as well as mixed media and installation works. Through the eyes of a range of artists (including Eastman Johnson, William Aiken Walker, Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, Edwin Harleston, Carrie Mae Weems, and Kara Walker), Landscape of Slavery examines depictions of plantations and related slave imagery in the context of the history of landscape painting in America. "More than a history of the visual imagery related to the plantation, the show invites one to consider the impact that this imagery has had on race relations for three centuries," says Mack.

"We are very pleased to have this opportunity to work with our colleagues at the Gibbes Museum -- particularly on a project of this quality and scope," added Kevin Grogan, director of the Morris Museum of Art. "Landscape of Slavery is a critically important examination of the myth of the plantation system, and it will help us to understand the strength, persistence, and peculiar vitality of that myth."

A genre uniquely associated with the Southern region of the United States, the plantation view has traditionally received marginal attention in the study of American landscape art. Previous work on the plantation subject has emphasized the debt the genre owes to eighteenth century British aesthetic theories and styles. In recent years, however, art historians have worked to identify general shifts in plantation iconography that reflect specific historical events. Meanwhile, plantation views have attracted the attention of social historians who have identified the genre as a rich source for exploring issues of wealth, power, race, memory and nostalgia. Landscape of Slavery seeks to bring these current discussions on the topic together for the public's consideration.


About the book Landscape of Slavery: The Plantation in American Art

Serving as a companion to the exhibition of the same name, Landscape of Slavery draws upon art history and social history as it illustrates the complexities of the American South. Landscape of Slavery undertakes an original study of plantation images from the eighteenth century through the present to unravel the realities and mythology inherent in this complex and often provocative subject.

Through ninety-two full-color plates, sixteen black-and-white illustrations and six thematic essays, the book examines depictions of plantation structures, plantation views and related slave imagery and art in the context of the American landscape tradition, addressing the impact of these works on race relations in the United States. Contributors to the volume are Alexis L. Boylan, Michael D. Harris, Leslie King-Hammond, Angela D. Mack, Maurie D. McInnis, Roberta Sokolitz, and John Michael Vlach. Landscape of Slavery is available at the Morris Museum of Art store.


Related Programming 

Public Opening Reception
Thursday, August 28, 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Angela D. Mack, Executive Director of the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina, and principal organizer of the exhibition, discusses how it was conceived and assembled. Free. Details at www.themorris.org/calendar/events 
High Art and Low Country: An Evening with Jonathan Green
Friday, September 5, 2008, 6:30-10:00 p.m.
The Morris Museum's Friends of African American Art invite you to join them in marking the opening of, The Landscape of Slavery: The Plantation in American Art. Mingle with nationally renowned Gullah artist Jonathan Green and enjoy live music while feasting on a low country boil overlooking the beautiful Savannah River. Members-only lecture,6:30 p.m.; public reception,7:00 p.m. Dress; low country casual. Fee. RSVP to 706-724-7501 by August 22. Details at www.themorris.org/calendar/events 
Exhibition Symposium
Saturday, September 6,10:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
A diverse panel of speakers provides insight into topics related to the lives of African Americans during the time of slavery. Fee. Fees include museum admission, an exhibition tour, lectures, and lunch. Call 706-828-3865 for registration information. Details at www.themorris.org/calendar/events 
Art at Lunch
Friday, September 19, noon
Steve Ferrell, owner of Old Edgefield Pottery in South Carolina, discusses the history and techniques of African American potters and objects. Museum members, Fee. Catering by Café 209. Register by September 17 by calling 706-828-3867. Details at www.themorris.org/calendar/events 
Adult Master Artist Workshop
Saturday, October 4, noon-4:00 p.m.
Weave a sweetgrass basket with Mary Graham-Grant using traditional Gullah techniques and materials. Fee. Includes all materials. Call 706-828-3867 to register.Details at www.themorris.org/calendar/events
Artrageous! Family Sunday
Sunday, October 5, 2:00 p.m.
Listen to tales of plantation life from Storyteller Kitty Wilson-Evans and then create authentic African American toys. Free.Details at www.themorris.org/calendar/events


Editor's note: RL readers may also enjoy:

Landscape of Slavery: The Plantation in American Art was published in 2008 by Univ of South Carolina Press. 166 pages. ISBN:1570037205. Google Books offers a Limited Preview of this book. For more information on this and other digitizing initiatives from publishers please click here and here. (right: front cover, Landscape of Slavery: The Plantation in American Art, courtesy of Google Books)

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