The New York Herald writer who said in an article in 1867 that African Americans could not produce art was ignorant of the work of such talents as Edward Bannister, Robert Scott Duncanson, Charles Ethan Porter or Henry Ossawa Tanner.
Even today, African-American artists are underrepresented in the collections of major American museums: An analysis by
“On Their Own Terms” is not an investigation into whether there is such a thing as “black art.” That’s a question for philosophers. Black culture and racism
Cushman created “On Their Own Terms” with work from 13 collections, both public and private. The Arkansas Arts Center contributed 16 works, including a graphite work of a drawn and beleaguered woman by the great Elizabeth Catlett, a charcoal portrait of a
The show includes paintings, prints, mixed media works
In 2007, the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High School, Cushman put on the exhibition “Taking Possession,” a show that highlighted black contemporary art by satirical painter Robert Colescott, sound-suit maker Nick Cave, mixed media sculptor Faith Ringgold, photographer Carrie Mae Weems
In 2017, Dr. Lynne Larson, assistant professor of art history at UA Little Rock, told Cushman she was going to teach a survey course on African-American
Along the way, Cushman went to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville to hear a talk by Amy Sherald. He introduced himself afterward and asked if the university could borrow one of her works for the show. Dropping Darrell Walker’s name didn’t hurt; now the show includes Amy Sherald’s “
Mixed media artist Delita Martin was quoted in a recent article in “Pressing Matters” as saying, “I’m very much interested in reconstructing the identity of African-American women, particularly, offering a different narrative to the stereotypes you see in media.” She contributes to the show “The Dinner Table,” an installation of portraits of Martin’s female family and friends done with china marker on plates and hung around a table. The work is undeniably a nod to white artist Judy Chicago, but it is Catlett to whom Martin feels a kinship, she told Cushman.
“On Their Own Terms” is hung to illustrate the tendrils that connect the artists. The first works on entering the main gallery are Catlett’s drawing “Newspaper Vendor”; Sherald’s “
Cushman has also paired Aj Smith’s larger-than-life and amazing graphite drawing “Faces of the Delta Series: Mr. Q.T., WWII Vet,” with “Portrait of a Model,” a collage of an insouciant fellow by Benny Andrews. Both are images of men, but the greater connection is that it was Andrews who encouraged Smith to move from New York to Arkansas for a job. A third stunning mixed-media work by Alfred Conteh, “Will,” joins the male portrait lineup.
In the small gallery on the first floor, Kehinde Wiley’s “Peter Chardon Study,” a watercolor of a man against a floral field, is paired with David Clemons’ steel caged teapot sculpture “The Trees We Construct to Conceal Our Strange Fruit.” Also in the small gallery, Cushman has grouped Henry Tanner’s quiet drawing “Christ at the Home of Mary” (1905); Robert Pruitt’s in-your-face charcoal and
Others who contributed work from their collections are Karen and C.J. Duvall, Pamela and Anthony Vance, Karen and Kevin Cole, Aj Smith, Delita Martin, Dr. Imani Perry, Monique Meloche Gallery
The opening reception for the exhibition is 5-7 p.m. Feb. 1. Juan Rodriguez of New York, who with Garbo Hearne loaned the many historic paintings to “On Their Own Terms,” will give a talk at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 5 in the Windgate Center.
Galleries are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday and 2-5 p.m. Sunday. The exhibition will run through March 10.