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Saturday, February 3, 10 am to 5:00 pm
Celebrate the opening of Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power. This symposium features exhibition artists and curators who will join us for an insightful round of conversation reflecting on art, politics, music, and community in the age of Black Power. The program kicks off with an opening discussion by the Tate’s curators, Mark Godfrey and Zoe Whitley, and continues with an inspiring line-up of artist conversations.
9:00 am – Coffee and Continental Breakfast
9:45 am – Welcoming Remarks, Rod Bigelow Crystal Bridges Executive Director and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer
10 – 10:30 am – Opening Discussion with Mark Godfrey and Zoe Whitley
Tate Modern curators Mark Godfrey and Zoe Whitley will kick off the symposium with a quick look into Tate’s organization of the exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power. The conversation will feature insights into the formation of the exhibition, working with the artists, and some of the public responses.
10:30 – 11:15 am
Conversation with Betye Saar and Alison Saar
Moderated by Lauren Haynes
In this opening conversation, artist Betye Saar will discuss her life, work, and legacy with her daughter, artist Alison Saar. The discussion will spotlight Saar’s works included in the show, such as The Liberation of Aunt Jemima, as well as touch on the relationship of mother and daughter artists and two generations of work.
11:15 am – 12:00 pm
Panel Discussion: AfriCOBRA: A Conversation with Jae Jarrell and Wadsworth Jarrell, Carolyn Lawrence, and Gerald Williams.
Moderated by Romi Crawford
Founding AfriCOBRA artists Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarrell, Carolyn Lawrence, and Gerald Williams will discuss the formation of the 1968 artist collective in Chicago, share their artistic philosophy of the Black aesthetic, and talk about the artworks included in the exhibition.
1:30 – 2:15 pm
Panel Discussion: Photography: A Conversation with Ming Smith, Adger Cowans, and Dawoud Bey
Moderated by Deb Willis
Formed in New York in 1963, the Kamoinge Workshop is a collective of African American photographers seeking artistic equality and empowerment, aiming to address the under-representation of Black photographers in the art. In this panel discussion, photographers Ming Smith, Adger Cowans, and Dawoud Bey will speak on the continued legacy of the collective, as well as their work included in the exhibition.
2:15 – 3:00 pm
Artist Conversation: Melvin Edwards and William T. Williams
With Lauren Haynes
Artists Melvin Edwards and William T. Williams are joined in conversation with Curator Lauren Haynes for a discussion beginning with their work in the artist collective Smokehouse Associates, their projects following, and their current work today.
3:15 – 4:00 pm
Panel Discussion: Role of Artists in Education: A Conversation with Randy Williams, Dana Chandler, and William T. Williams
Moderated by Sandra Jackson-Dumont
As both educators and artists, Randy Williams, Dana Chandler, and William T. Williams will reflect on the methods of presenting the visual arts in universities, schools, museums, and communities.
4:00 – 4:30 pm
Artist Conversation: Lorraine O’Grady
With Zoe Whitley
Lorraine O’Grady is joined in conversation with Tate curator Zoe Whitley for a discussion revealing insights into the complete arc of the Mlle. Bourgeoise Noire persona. O’Grady will discuss the compelling and critical contexts in which she developed her singular strategies for artmaking.
4:30 – 5:00 pm
Artist Conversation: Faith Ringgold
With Mark Godfrey
In the closing conversation, Artist Faith Ringgold is joined in conversation with Tate Curator Mark Godfrey for a reflective discussion on her artworks from the 1960s, encompassing political imagery and first-hand accounts of the civil rights movement in the American People Series.
Born in New York City, Dawoud Bey began his career as a photographer in 1975 with a series of photographs, “Harlem, USA,” that were later exhibited in his first one-person exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979. He has since had exhibitions worldwide, at institutions such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Barbican Centre in London, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the National Portrait Gallery in London, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among many others.
Bey is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University. He is currently Distinguished College Artist and Professor of Art at Columbia College Chicago, where he has taught since 1998. Bey’s critical writings on photography and contemporary art have appeared in numerous publications and exhibition catalogs.
Dana C. Chandler, Jr., noted African American artist, activist, and educator, was born in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1941. He was educated in Boston Public Schools, and earned a B.S. in Teacher Education from the Massachusetts College of Art. Chandler joined the Black nationalist movement in the 1960s. His large-scale, boldly-colored paintings and collages depict racial injustice and criticize the commodification of civil rights icons. In recent years, Chandler has lectured about art and activism.
In 1970, Chandler was named Boston National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Man of the Year. He has taught at Simmons College and at Northeastern University. He founded the African American Master Artists-in-Residence Program at Northeastern University in 1974, and directed the program until 1993. He has exhibited his work internationally, under both his own name and under the name Akin Duro.
Adger Cowans, a fine arts photographer and Abstract Expressionist painter, has experimented with a myriad of mediums over his artistic career. Cowans attended Ohio University where he received a BFA in photography. He furthered his education at the School of Motion Picture Arts and School of Visual Arts in New York. While serving in the United States Navy, he worked as a photographer before moving to New York, where he later worked with LIFE magazine photographer Gordon Parks and fashion photographer Henri Clarke.
His works have been shown by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, International Museum of Photography, Museum of Modern Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Cleveland Museum of Art, and numerous other art institutions. He was awarded the Lorenzo il Magnifico alla Carriera in recognition of a Distinguished Career at the 2001 Florence Biennale of Contemporary Art.
Romi Crawford (Ph.D.) is Associate Professor in the Visual and Critical Studies and Liberal Arts Departments at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is co-author (with Abdul Alkalimat and Rebecca Zorach) of The Wall of Respect: Public Art and Black Liberation in 1960s Chicago (Northwestern University Press, 2017). In 2016 She founded the Museum of Vernacular Arts, a project based platform that highlights the significance of vernacular art and knowledge forms, or those that are not within the purview of art museums and galleries because they are out of sync with dominant aesthetic, formal, and institutional values. Crawford was co-curator (with Lisa Lee) of the 2017 Open Engagement Conference, themed “Justice.”
Melvin Edwards is a pioneer in the history of contemporary African American art and Sculpture. Born in Houston, Texas in 1937, Edwards began his art career in Southern California with a solo exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in 1965. Since then, his work has been widely exhibited and is represented in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York.
Edwards is best known for his sculptural series Lynch Fragments. This series exemplifies the extraordinary range of expression Edwards achieves with his method of welding industrial found-objects into new forms, provoking thoughts of violence, humor and hope. Edwards taught at Rutgers University from 1972 to 2002. In 2014, he received an Honorary Doctorate from the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston.
Mark Godfrey is Curator of International Art at Tate Modern. He has curated major exhibitions of work by American, German, British, Mexican, and Italian artists. He has also worked on many of the displays in the Energy and Process wing at Tate Modern and on displays of video installations by Omer Fast and Beryl Korot. Godfrey serves as the Curator for the North American Acquisitions Committee, a group of 40 to 50 patrons helping Tate to acquire work by American and Canadian artists.
Godfrey’s research concerns art post-1945. His PhD and book Abstraction and the Holocaust (2007) looked at the relationship between American abstraction and Holocaust memory. Abstraction remains an area of research for him, and current interests concern the arguments made around abstraction in the civil rights era and the relationship of contemporary abstract painting to changes in technology.
Lauren Haynes is curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges. A specialist in African American modern and contemporary art, she has curated numerous exhibitions at The Studio Museum, Harlem, including Alma Thomas (co-curated), Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet and Contemporary Art; Stanley Whitney: Dance the Orange; and Carrie Mae Weems: The Museum Series. Haynes has authored several landmark catalogs such as The Bearden Project (2011), Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet and Contemporary Art (2014), Stanley Whitney: Dance the Orange (2015) and Fore (2012; co-author), and has contributed to several others. Her innovative curatorial work has received favorable recognition in publications such as the New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and Art in America.
Sandra Jackson-Dumont is the Frederick P. and Sandra P. Rose Chairman of Education at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She was formerly the Deputy Director for Education + Public Programs and Adjunct Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art at the Seattle Art Museum, and has also worked at the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Whitney Museum of American Art among other cultural organizations. Known for her ability to blur the lines between academia, popular culture, and non-traditional art-going communities, Jackson-Dumont is invested in curating experiences that foster dynamic exchanges. She is interested in ecosystems including multidisciplinary, multi-sector, and multi-community practice. Jackson-Dumont currently serves on the boards of Seattle’s Friends of the Waterfront Project, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs’ Advisory Commission, the National Guild for Community Arts Education and the Friends of the High Line.
Jae Jarrell’s radical fashions use the body as a vessel for protest, resistance, and identity. She studied art and clothing design at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Howard University in Washington DC. In 1968, Jae was among the group who founded the collective AfriCOBRA (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists), in response to a lack of positive representation of African and African American people in media and the arts. They worked to develop a uniquely Black aesthetic, with bright “Cool-ade” colors and a lively sense of rhythm. As a fashion designer, Jae embodied those ideals through clothing with a strident “Look good, feel powerful” message.
Jarrell lives and works in Cleveland Ohio. Her work is held in numerous private collections, and in the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
Founding AfriCOBRA member, Wadsworth Jarrell was born in 1929 in Albany, Georgia, and moved to Chicago in 1954. He attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, receiving a BFA in 1958. As a member of the Organization for Black American Culture (OBAC), he helped execute the Wall of Respect in 1967, painting the rhythm-and-blues musicians’ section. The same year, he married fellow artist and clothing designer, Elaine “Jae” Jarrell. In 1968, The Jarrells cofounded the artist collective AfriCOBRA along with Jeff Donaldson, Barbara Jones-Hogu, and Gerald Williams. In 1971, Wadsworth began teaching at Howard University and received his MFA in 1974. He taught painting at the University of Georgia from 1978 until he retired from teaching in 1988. Jarrell continues to work as an artist. “If you can get to bebop,” he says, “you can get to me. That is where the truth is.”
Painter and educator Carolyn Lawrence grew up in Houston, Texas, and received a degree in Art Education from the University of Texas in Austin in 1961. She started teaching in Gary, Indiana, immediately after graduation, and then went on to complete her MA in Art Education at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Lawrence was a member of the Organization for Black American Culture (OBAC) and took part in the creation of the Wall of Respect. She joined the group in the spring of 1969, while teaching art at Kenwood Academy High School in Chicago. She contributed to the group’s first museum exhibition, 10 in Search of a Nation, at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1970. She continued teaching at Kenwood Academy, where she also served as art department chair, until she retired in 2001. Since then she has returned to her art and is focused on honing her craft.
Lorraine O’Grady is an artist and critic whose installations, performances, and texts address issues of diaspora, hybridity, and Black female subjectivity. Her work’s intellectual content is rigorous and political, but its form is often characterized by heightened beauty and elegance. O’Grady’s work has been included in such significant group shows as the Whitney Biennial (2010) and the Paris Triennale (2012), and is included in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, and the Art Institute of Chicago, among many others.
Born in Boston in 1934 to West Indian parents, O’Grady came to art late. After majoring in economics and Spanish literature at Wellesley, she studied in the fiction program of the Iowa Writers Workshop and had several careers: as an intelligence analyst for the US government, a literary and commercial translator, and as a rock critic for The Village Voice and Rolling Stone.
Faith Ringgold, painter, writer, speaker, mixed media sculptor and performance artist, lives and works in Englewood, New Jersey. Ms Ringgold is professor emerita of the University of California, San Diego, where she taught art from 1984 until 2002. She is the recipient of more than 75 awards including 23 Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees and fellowships. Ringgold’s art is included in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Boston Museum of Fine Art. It is the 26th anniversary of Ringgold’s first published book, Tar Beach. It has won more than 30 awards including a Caldecott Medal and the Coretta Scott King award for the best illustrated children’s book of 1991. Ringgold has written and or illustrated 20 children’s books. Ms. Ringgold is represented by ACA Gallery in New York City.
Alison Saar creates artworks that frequently transform found objects to reflect themes of cultural and social identity, history, and religion. Saar’s style encompasses a multitude of personal, artistic, and cultural references that reflect the plurality of her own experiences. The resulting figures and objects become powerful totems exploring issues of gender, race, and heritage.
Saar studied studio art and art history at Scripps College in Claremont, California, receiving a BA in art history in 1978. In 1981 she earned her MFA from the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. In 1983, Saar became an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem, incorporating found objects from the city environment. She completed another residency in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1985, which augmented her urban style with Southwest Native American and Mexican influences.
Saar’s art is included in museums and private collections across the U.S.
Betye Saar was born in Los Angeles in 1926. She graduated from the University of California, and continued graduate studies at California State University at Long Beach, the University of Southern California, and California State University at Northridge. Saar is known for her multimedia collages, box assemblages, altars and installations consisting of found materials, and her practice reflects on African American identity, spirituality, and the connectedness between different cultures. Her symbolically rich body of work has evolved over time to demonstrate the environmental, cultural, political, racial, technological, economic, and historical context in which it exists.
Saar’s artworks are included in the permanent collections of over 60 museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Modern Art, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Ming Smith is known for her informal, in-action portraits of Black cultural figures—from Alvin Ailey to Nina Simone. Ming’s career emerged formally with the publication of the Black Photographer’s Annual in 1973. People continue to be her most treasured subjects. This is most apparent in her series depicting African American life. Ming continues to expand the role of photography with her exploration of image and paint in the more recent, large-scale Transcendence series. Her work was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s groundbreaking exhibition Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography in 2010, and is held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum & Center for African American History and Culture, and the AT&T Corporation.
Zoe Whitley, PhD, is curator of International Art at Tate Modern in London. Whitley has worked in a unique capacity across Tate as curator of Contemporary British Art and as research curator for Africa. In addition to co-curating Soul of a Nation, she co-curated the critically praised exhibition The Shadows Took Shape at the Studio Museum in Harlem (2013-14). Prior to this, she was a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum for a decade (2003-2013). There, she curated numerous exhibitions and co-authored the book In Black and White: Prints from Africa and the Diaspora (V&A Publications) and is the sole author of the monograph on graphic designer Paul Peter Piech (Four Corners Books).
A frequent public speaker on visual art, Whitley has presented at TEDxJohannesburg, and at universities and cultural organizations worldwide.
Gerald Williams (b. 1941) is a painter and founding member of AfriCOBRA (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artist), an African American artist collective. Williams was born in Chicago. He earned a Masters of Fine Arts at Howard University, served in the United States Air Force, and was a Peace Corps Volunteer for several years. He taught in public schools in Chicago and Washington DC and served as Arts and Crafts Director for the United States Air Force for 20 years until his retirement in 2004.
Randy Williams is a Professor of Art and Chair of the Studio Art Department at Manhattanville College, and a consultant and instructor for educational programs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City. He served as the Director of the New York State Summer School of the Arts/School of Visual Arts from 1999 -2015. Williams has received numerous awards and fellowships of distinction, which include the Kellogg Fellowship from The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and from The American Academy in Rome. His work has been exhibited widely in venues such as the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Jamaica Arts Center, the Franklin Furnace, PS1, and Just Above Mid Town, New York. About his work, Williams says “Often I explore elements of my past that were harmful to me as an African-American.”
William T. Williams work ranges in style from his early geometric abstractions, to almost-monochromatic explorations of texture, to an abstraction that derives its force from tension among colors and forms. Williams believed that abstraction offered expressive freedom, but was wary of painting that was merely about painting. He thus developed an approach that rendered the abstract representational through the shapes he incorporates in the work. These shapes resonate with cultural history and personal memories of a childhood spent in the urban environments of New York as well as in rural North Carolina. In addition, his work references jazz and quilting as manifestations of the African American tradition of abstraction.
Williams taught at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York (CUNY) for four decades, inspiring hundreds of students including Nari Ward and Arthur Simms. Williams continues to live and work between New York City and Connecticut.
He is represented in over thirty public collections, including the Detroit Institute of the Art (MI); Fogg Museum (Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA); The Menil Collection (Houston, TX); Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY); Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Collection (Albany, NY); North Carolina Museum of Art (Raleigh, NC); The Studio Museum in Harlem (New York, NY); Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY), and the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, CT).
Deborah Willis, Ph.D., is chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, and has an affiliated appointment as University Professor with the College of Arts and Sciences, Africana Studies also at NYU. Willis has been the recipient of Guggenheim, Fletcher, and MacArthur fellowships, the Infinity Award in Writing from the International Center for Photography, and the Anonymous Was a Woman Foundation Award. Named one of the “100 Most Important People in Photography” by American Photography magazine, she is one of the nation’s leading historians of African American photography and curators of African American culture. Willis’s books include Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery, with Barbara Krauthamer, Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present, and many others. Her book, Michelle Obama, The First Lady in Photographs received the 2010 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work Biography/Autobiography.
Carolyn Lawrence, Black Children Keep Your Spirits Free (detail), 1972, acrylic paint on canvas, 49 x 51 x 2 in. Carolyn Mims Lawrence.