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‘The Soul of a City: Memphis Collects African American Art’

  • Written by Tri-State Defender Newsroom


For the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, this summer’s goals include showcasing the diversity, vitality, and creativity of African American art.

For the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, this summer’s goals include showcasing the diversity, vitality, and creativity of African American art.

Chakaia Booker
b. 1953
Rubber tire and wood
Collection of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

Whitfield Lovell
b. 1959
PSALM, 1999
Charcoal on wood, radio, audio cassette
Collection of Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

With that backdrop, museum visitors will be treated to “The Soul of a City: Memphis Collects African American Art,” which will begin June 9 and run through Sept. 2.

On display will be more than 100 important and thought-provoking paintings, photographs, drawings, sculptures and mixed media works selected from private and public collections in Memphis.

The exhibition surveys great themes in art history as expressed through sections devoted to landscape, genre, still life, portraiture, folk art, abstraction, religion, music, the Civil Rights movement, and contemporary art.

 “Think of it as an introduction to art history and the traditions and genres that all American artists work in,” says exhibition curator Marina Pacini, who is Chief Curator and Curator of American, Modern, and Contemporary Art at the Brooks.

 “The Soul of a City” will include marquee names in American art, including painters Norman Lewis, Kehinde Wiley, Jacob Lawrence, Sam Gilliam, Radcliffe Bailey, and Alma Thomas; folk artists Clementine Hunter, Purvis Young, and Elijah Pierce; sculptors Chakaia Booker and Elizabeth Catlett; collagists Romare Bearden and Wangechi Mutu; mixed media artists Glenn Ligon and Whitfield Lovell; and photographers James van der Zee, Lorna Simpson, and Carrie Mae Weems.

The exhibition will also feature work by many regional artists, including the late sculptor William Edmondson, the first African American artist to be given a one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art; self-taught Alabama artist Thornton Dial; and a wide range of work by established and emerging Memphians, including photographer Ernest Withers; painters George Hunt, Brenda Joysmith, Twin, Jared Small, Danny Broadway, Anthony Lee, and Dewitt Jordan; mixed-media artist Kiersten Williams; quilter Hattie Childress; and sculptors Luther Hampton, Edwin Jeffrey, and Hawkins Bouldin.

An interactive space where museum visitors can explore the creative process will be included in the exhibition.

Lenders to “The Soul of a City” include Elliot and Kim Perry, Ron and Marianne Walter, Judge and Mrs. D’Army Bailey, Drs. James and Rushton Patterson, John and Susan Jerit, Craig Wiener, Robert Bain, the University of Memphis, and The LeMoyne-Owen College.

The Brooks will collaborate with various community groups, including Hattiloo Theatre and the Stax Music Academy, on various educational components, including an Art and Soul Family Day, sponsored by Macy’s, which is slated for Saturday, June 23.

A concurrent film series, entitled “Soul on Film,” will be held throughout the run of the exhibition. A collaboration between the Brooks and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, “Soul on Film” will kick off with a screening of the documentary “Wattstax” at 7 pm on Thursday, June 14. Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the landmark 1972 soul music concert, and presented in conjunction with a Wattstax exhibition on view at the Stax Museum this summer, tickets for this special screening will be just $1 per person. The series will also feature the documentaries “Thunder Soul,” “Mr. Dial Has Something to Say,” and “Colored Frames,” as well as more films TBA.

“The Soul of a City: Memphis Collects African American Art” is sponsored by SunTrust.

Community Partners: ArtsMemphis, Hyde Family Foundations, Tennessee Arts Commission, The Jeniam Foundation, and AutoZone.

(For more information, call 901-544-6200 or visit www.brooksmuseum.org.)

Glenn Ligon
b. 1960
Iris print and Iris print with serigraph, 8/20 Collection of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

William Edmondson
COURTING LADY, ca. 1940s
Gift of AutoZone, Inc. 2001.15.13.



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