Soulful: ‘Art in the Age of Black Power’ at Crystal Bridges — Leslie Newell Peacock

Arkansas Times, 02.08.2018

If you saw the 2017 exhibitions “Here.” at the Arts & Science Center of Southeast Arkansas and “AfriCOBRA NOW” at Hearne Fine Art, shows that highlighted Chicagoans and others working during the height of the civil rights movement, you’ll know right away why “Soul of a Nation” opening Saturday, Feb. 3, at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is a must-not-miss show.

If you didn’t see those exhibitions last year, then you really must not miss “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power,”works by 60 of America’s finest African-America artists from the 1960s to the 1980s. While Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko were exploring abstract expressionism, the artists of “Soul of a Nation” — including collage artist Romare Bearden, sculptor Noah Purifoy, craft artist Martin Puryear, quilter Faith Ringgold, assemblage artist Betye Saar, painter Alma Thomas, WPA muralist Charles White, painter and printmaker Benny Andrews, portrait and conceptual artist Barkley Hendricks, abstractionist Sam Gilliam and the others in the show — were working in a world set apart, addressing issues of racism as well as working within the abstract art movements of the mid-20th century.

The exhibition comes from the Tate Modern in London, and curators from the Tate will be on hand for a symposium on Saturday. The symposium is sold out, but will be streamed live by Crystal Bridges; a link to stream of the symposium, which starts at 10 a.m., will be posted Feb. 3 on this website.

Here’s the symposium schedule: Crystal Bridges curator of contemporary artLauren Haynes will speak with artists Betye Saar and Alison Saar at 10:30 a.m.; a panel discussion with AfriCOBRA artists Jae Jarell, Wadsworth Jarrell, Carolyn Lawrence and Gerald Williams begins at 11:15 a.m.; a panel discussion on photography with Ming Smith, Adger Cowans and Dawoud Bey begins at 1:30 p.m.; Haynes will talk with artists Melvin Edwards and William T. Williams at 2:15 p.m.; a panel of educator artists will talk about the visual arts education at 3:15 p.m.; and Tate curators will talk with performance artist Lorraine O’Grady (Mlle. Bourgeois Noire) at 4 p.m. and Faith Ringgold at 4:30 p.m. LNP

Also Saturday, Crystal Bridges will offer a free 45-minute guided tour of the exhibition to ticket-holders at 1 p.m. Tickets are $10 and may be purchased online or at the museum.

Hearne Fine Art is one of the sponsors of the show, along with the Alturas Foundation,  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.

UPDATE: Crystal Bridges has taken note of the January death of Jack Whitten, an artist whose work is in “Soul of a Nation,” publishing an email interview it had with him in preparation for the exhibition. It also notes that the exhibition has been named one of 12 “must-see” shows in the Observer.