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Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power

February 3 – April 23, 2018

Painting of people and words
Carolyn Lawrence, Black Children Keep Your Spirits Free, 1972, acrylic on canvas, 49 × 51 × 2 in. Collection and copyright Carolyn Mims Lawrence. Image courtesy of the artist.

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power shines a bright light on the vital contribution of Black artists to an important period in American history and art. Featuring the work of 60 artists and including vibrant paintings, powerful sculptures, street photography, murals, and more, this landmark exhibition is a rare opportunity to see era-defining artworks that changed the face of art in America.

Developed by the Tate Modern in London and debuting in the US at Crystal Bridges, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power examines the influences, including the civil rights movement, Minimalism, and abstraction, on artists such as Romare Bearden, Noah Purifoy, Martin Puryear, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, Alma Thomas, Charles White, and William T. Williams.

Wadsworth Jarrell, Revolutionary
Wadsworth Jarrell, Revolutionary, 1972, Screen print on paper, 37 × 26 1/2 in. Courtesy Lusenhop Fine Art. Copyright Wadsworth Jarrell. Photography: David Lusenhop.

Soul of a Nation exhibition trailer

Children outdoors with metal sculpture
Art work created by Smokehouse Associates, William T. Williams, Melvin Edwards, Guy Ciarcia and Billy Rose. Photograph by Robert Colton, New York, NY; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY.

Some artists, galvanized by the spirit of the civil rights movement, created images that spoke of solidarity, strength, and resistance, while others focused primarily on color, form, and concept. Some works paid homage to legendary African American figures from the period, including political leaders Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Angela Davis, musician John Coltrane, and sports hero Jack Johnson. The variety of artworks reflects the many viewpoints of artists and collectives at work during these explosive times.

Crystal Bridges is one of only two American venues to host this important exhibition, described as both powerful, and at times, challenging. Following its debut in Bentonville, the exhibition travels to the Brooklyn Museum in New York.

Exhibition Resources

Check out resources related to Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power.

The Greats Improvisation Black Heroes Interactive Guide Symposium

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Sponsored By

Exhibition is organized by Tate Modern in collaboration with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, and Brooklyn Museum, New York. Curated by Lauren Haynes, Curator, Crystal Bridges and Mark Godfrey, Senior Curator, International Art, and Zoe Whitley, Curator, International Art, Tate Modern.

Sponsored at Crystal Bridges, in part, by Alturas Foundation, Hearne Fine Art, Perry Broadcasting of Arkansas, Philander Smith College, Esther Silver-Parker, Tony Waller, Walmart AAOC, Deborah Wright, James and Emily Bost, Sara Friedlander and Matthew Siegel, and Denise and Hershey Garner.