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Labor and Leisure: Works by African-American Artists from the Permanent Collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
February 4 - May 3, 2009
An exhibition focusing on African-American art from the time of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and 1930s to the Postmodern experimentation of the late 1990s will be on view from February 4 to May 3, 2009 at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. (right: Jacob Lawrence's "Subway - Home from Work" is a 1943 watercolor on paper. Photo by Ron Jennings, © 2009 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)
"Labor and Leisure: Works by African-American Artists from the Permanent Collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts" will explore the polarities of daily life for American blacks in a variety of media. Included will be art by James VanDerZee (1886-1983), Leslie Garland Bolling (1898-1955), Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), Romare Bearden (1911-1988), Charles White (1918-1979), Lorna Simpson (born 1960) and Willie Cole (born 1955).
"In depicting the African-American experience, many 20th-century black artists found subjects in the universal themes of labor and leisure," says Emily Smith, VMFA's curatorial fellow in Modern and Contemporary art, who organized the exhibition with Dr. Elizabeth L. O'Leary , associate curator of American art.
"Through content and form, the works convey a variety of responses ranging from historical commemoration and nostalgic reflection to social and political commentary and from intimate glimpses of family and friends to joyful celebration."
Works in the exhibition include White's "Guitarist" (circa 1959), two small poplar sculptures by Bolling dating from the 1930s, Lawrence's "Subway - Home from Work" (1943) and five photographs by VanDerZee including a self portrait from about 1925.
On March 4, Smith presented a lecture on the exhibition at 6 p.m. in the Marble Hall.
The Virginia Historical Society, djacent to VMFA on the Boulevard, is also presenting an exhibition focusing on African-American history and culture. "The African American Image in Virginia" through December 30, 2009.
The VHS exhibition -- organized by Dr. Lauranett Lee, the VHS curator of African-American history -- covers almost four centuries and explores portrayals of free and enslaved laborers, young and old family members, students, professionals and officials.
Items on display include prints, paintings, photographs, magazine and book illustrations, and advertisements. Positive and negative depictions are included, and sometimes paired, as a means of examining the changing status of African-Americans. VHS visitors will see how African-Americans perceive themselves and how they are perceived by others throughout Virginia's history.
(above: Charles Wilbert White's "Guitarist" is a charcoal and gouache work on illustration board. It was created about 1959. Photo by Katherine Wetzel, © 2009 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)
February 18, 2009 blog by Emily Smith, VMFA Curatorial Fellow, Modern and Contemporary Art
Checklist from the exhibition
(All works are from the VMFA Collection)
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