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Embracing the Muse: Africa and African American Art

January 15 – March 6, 2004


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Press Release

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery is pleased to present Embracing the Muse: Africa and African American Art. This exhibition illustrates the profound impact of Africa’s art and rich history on twentieth-century African American artists. The exhibition includes a seletion of museum-caliber paintings, drawings, and sculpture by Charles Alston, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Romare Bearden, John Biggers, Beauford Delaney, Aaron Douglas, Mel Edwards, Herbert Gentry, Sargent Johnson, Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, Betye Saar, Vincent Smith, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Bob Thompson, Charles White and Hale Woodruff. Fine examples of African tribal sculpture that directly influenced and/or inspired these artists will be installed alongside the artwork. As Dr. Nnamdi Elleh observes in the catalogue essay:

The artwork in this exhibition reveals how African-American artists favored a temporal depiction of Africa as a continent whose culture is timeless, varied, and endures ....Some of the paintings in the exhibition reveal how artists

 incorporated ...knowledge of the African continent ...with the express purpose of reclaiming their African heritage. ...[while other images] celebrate Africa as a continent in which the geopolitical boundaries imposed by European colonial authorities were completely dissolved ...[giving] artists the freedom to ...borrow visual icons from any part of the continent...

This exhibition has been organized with Pace Primitive, New York, and is accompanied by a fully-illustrated color catalogue with an essay by Dr. Nnamdi Elleh, Assistant Professor of Architecture History and Theory at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio. Dr. Nnamdi Elleh is the author of several books on African architecture and he recently contributed the essay "Bearden's Dialogue with Africa and the Avant-Garde" to the National Gallery of Art's exhibition catalogue The Art of Romare Bearden.