Romare Bearden: Looking Back at You

August 31, 2012

2011-2012 included many, many museum and gallery exhibitions all across the US honoring the centennial birthday for Romare Bearden (African-American, 1911-1988).

See the Romare Bearden Foundation site for updates and information.

Read about The Bearden Project (August 16-Oct 21, 2012) now at the Studio Museum of Harlem (144 W 125 St., NY).

The Bearden Project shows work by 100 contemporary artists who have all been influenced by Bearden’s genius. Each artist was asked to create a work of art inspired by Bearden’s life and legacy.

Romare Bearden, SUMMERTIME, 1967

The image above, is titled Summertime (1967), collage on board, 56×44 inches, image courtesy Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, NY.

In the collage Summertime, Bearden employs the rectangular geometry of window and door frames in a way that explores inside and outside space. We are looking in. Who is looking out? Notice the face and eyes of the Dan mask set within the upper-right tenement window (and the eye seen behind the pink gingham curtain in the window nearby). Bearden’s figurative elements included African masks.  Are these reminders of lost African ancestors?

In an earlier post, I wrote about an August 5, 2012 Newark Museum workshop I led titled Conjur Woman: Portrait in Collage. The post included many images by participants in the workshop. This post includes more images created at the workshop. See their images below.

See images…and read more about the life and art of Romare Bearden at the Studio Museum of Harlem website.

See the upcoming exhibition Romare Bearden: Urban Rhythms and Dreams of Paradise at the ACA Gallery (529 W 20 St., NYC). The exhibition runs November 3, 2012-January 5, 2013. Reception date TBA.

Romare Bearden, Conjur Woman, 1964

The image above by Romare Bearden is titled Conjur Woman (1964). It’s a small collage, only 9×7 inches and was created with snippets from newspapers and magazines like Ebony and the Saturday Evening Post. She is looking at us. See her hands. One holds a leaf – to make a potion? Notice the window in the upper right corner. Are we looking out at the full moon?

See more Bearden images in a post I wrote on January 15, 2011 titled Romare Bearden: Conjur Woman and Collage.

Looking At Collage Looking At You

Bearden’s is a radically inclusive artistic vision.

We can’t help but participate. He draws us in.

We are viewing and we are viewed.

Romare Bearden, Carolina Morning, 1974

The Bearden image above is titled Carolina Morning (1974). It’s mixed media collage on board, 30×22 inches. The work was included in the Southern Recollections show that travelled to the Newark Museum.

We see a woman holding a baby. Is she in a doorway or on a porch?  An older woman with a young child is in the distance. Are they approaching – or departing? We are caught in the woman’s gaze and have to wonder what she is thinking about.

CONJUR WOMAN by Workshop Participants

Here are additional images by people who attended the Conjur Woman workshop at the Newark Museum August 5, 2012.

Now, I look at the art and notice how it is looking back at me.

Mansa Mussa, Conjur Woman (detail)

Mansa Mussa sent me a close up view of his collage, seen above. Notice the face of Romare Bearden (a photo he took when he met the artist in person). Bearden is playing drums. Notice the saxophone player in the foreground. He’s looking at you. This work is all about jazz music. Bearden was a great jazz fan and knew all the greats.

Joan Alleyne-Piggot, Without Limits

Joan Alleyne-Piggot sent me her image titled “Without Limits, seen above. It’s a collage with text and magazine papers. Notice her emphasis on mouths.  She wrote:
What the eyes can’t see, the ears will hear
What the ears can’t hear, the nose will smell
What the nose can’t smell, the lips will taste
What the lips can’t taste, the hands will touch
Everything is without limits if one fails to try,

She wrote: “I was inspired  by Romare Bearden’s work after attending the premiere at the Newark Museum and decided to take the workshop.  It was very inspiring.”

Dorothy Meissner, The Conjurer

Dorothy Meissner sent me an image of her collage titled The Conjurer, seen above.

At the workshop she built her collage with black and white stripes (the piano keyboard all around), and skyscraper imagery. She finished the collage at home after the workshop when she found her skyscraper magazine images. She wanted the skyscraper image to capture the energy of the big city.

I will visit the Studio Museum in Harlem and write soon about the The Bearden Project show before it closes on October 21st. I will also visit the ACA Galleries and write about the upcoming Bearden show Urban Rhythms and Dreams of Paradise.

Thank you for reading this post and thank you for your comments about all the exhibitions this year that honor the creative genius of this great artist.

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2 Responses to “Romare Bearden: Looking Back at You”

  1. Jacob Says:

    Where can I enter my artwork

    • nikkal Says:

      Jacob, contact the Studio Museum for information. They say they will continue the Bearden Project. I have no other information.


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