Romare Bearden: Collage/In Context at FOG Design+Art

Romare Bearden (1911-1988), La Primavera, 1964, collage of various papers and fabrics on cardboard, 8 1/2 x 13 1/4 inches / 21.6 x 33.7 cm, signed

Romare Bearden: Collage/In Context

Fog design + art
From January 20 to 23, 2022
Fort Mason Center, Booth 207

Premiere gala
Wednesday 19 January / 4 p.m.–10 p.m.

Public days
Thursday 20 January / 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
Friday 21 January / 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
Saturday January 22 / 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
Sunday January 23 / 11 a.m.–5 p.m.

Visit the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery at Booth 207

For its inaugural presentation at FOG Design+Art, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery is pleased to announce Romare Bearden: Collage/In Context, a double presentation of exhibitions exploring the evolution of collage practices during the 20th and 21st centuries. A personal exhibition of collage works by Romare Bearden (1911-1988), will feature nineteen masterpieces created throughout the 1960s and 1970s, when the artist’s creative prowess was at its peak. Seeking to convey the unparalleled status of Bearden’s contributions to the medium, the booth will also feature a group exhibition curated to contextualize Bearden’s work among other major American artists working in collage from 1937 to 2019, offering unique insight into precedents , impact and legacy. of Bearden’s work.

Romare Bearden began his career as a political cartoonist in the 1930s, a business that anticipated his later work with mass-produced ephemera prints. He even used a collage technique in many of his cartoons from this period, pasting newspaper article clippings into his panels to set up the message of his strip, which often focused on the political struggles of the African diaspora. in the United States and abroad. The sharp, expressive linework of his cartoons continued into his career as a painter of the 1940s and 1950s, when he produced a dynamic body of modernist works whose imagery gradually oscillated between process-based abstraction and figuration with cubist influences. Although the chronology of the artist’s first mature experiments with collage is uncertain – the dates range from 1956 to 1961 – Bearden did not begin his collage practice in earnest until between 1963 and 1964, at the age of fifty. and one year old. America’s political climate had come to a head before the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963, and the artist, who had grown up in the South and was acutely aware of the nation’s civic failings, found his practice invigorated. by the possibilities he discovered in figurative collage. Working in a mode that incorporated approaches from the Cubist and Dada collages with which he was familiar, Bearden began producing collage works at a fearless pace.

Romare Bearden: Collage will present a survey of Bearden’s masterful and complex compositions focusing on themes as broad as his own talent and varied interests, which included Greek mythology, jazz, blues, old European masters, and black American life in urban settings and rural. Highlights of the presentation will include The Primavera (1964), one of the artist’s first major collages that converged the cultural signifiers of black South American life with the allegories of the European Renaissance; spring path (circa 1968), a work that the artist revisited for several years and which is inspired by his family history and the Great Migration; and blue shade (1973), a collage that incorporates a particularly diverse range of media and improvisational compositional techniques. Ultimately, Bearden was enamored with the medium’s potential to lay bare the fundamental structures of pictorial representation, in social and formal terms. As Thelma Golden writes, Bearden was drawn to collage’s ability to address an “essential notion of representation [by] opening up the authentic and the experiential through formal means.[I]

While Bearden’s collages were widely acclaimed and recognized for their originality and influence, the medium as a whole experienced a renaissance in the mid-20th century, as all manner of painters, printmakers, filmmakers and sculptors also found the medium filled with generative elements. possibility. In fact, the growing prevalence of collage techniques in 20th century art was the subject of a landmark exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in 1961 titled The art of blending, which Bearden visited. Featuring 250 works by 130 artists, the exhibition traced the evolution of the medium from the cubist experiments of Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris through the movements of dada, surrealism, new realism, abstract expressionism and neo-dada. Curated by William Seitz, the exhibition’s sprawling settings sought to demonstrate the immense impact of collage and assemblage practices on the primary movements of 20th-century Western art.

Collage/In Context takes a similar approach to The art of blending, bringing together a wide range of artists working in collage over several decades, but with revised parameters to focus on artists working near Bearden. Many of the artists included here were also represented in the 1961 MoMA exhibition, including Bruce Conner (1933-2008), Conrad Marca Relli (1913-2000), Louise Nevelson (1899-1988), Richard Pousette-Dart (1916-1992), Anne Ryan (1889-1954), Joseph Stella (1877-1946), Esteban Vicente (1903-2001) and Charmion of Wiegand (1896-1983). Collages by artists such as Nancy Grosman (b.1940), who worked closely with Bearden to develop a new technique for preserving the integrity of their supports under the weight of multiple layers of paper and glue. A strong selection of collages from Betye Sarre (b.1926) dating from the 1970s to the early 1990s juxtapose objects of particular familial or autobiographical significance with an array of other items, often referencing sociopolitical ideas or mystical concepts. A small but mighty group of works by Jay De Feo (1929-1989) exemplify the artist’s iterative process of formal experimentation, in which ordinary inanimate objects are anthropomorphized to suggest unexpected connections between subjects. Rounding out the presentation are works by artists who could easily have fit into MoMA’s 1961 exhibition, but were somewhat less prominent – but no less important – at the time, such as Hannelore Baron (1926-1987), Burgoyne Diller (1906-1965), balcomb (1904–1990) and Gertrude Green (1904-1956), Grace Hartigan (1922-2008), Alfred Leslie (born in 1927), larry rivers (1923–2002) and Lenore Tawney (1907–2007). Finally, a selection of works created in the decades following Bearden’s death, including collages by benny andrews (1930-2006), Al Hansen (1927–1995) and William T. Williams (b. 1942) underscore the lasting influence of Bearden’s work.

While the conceptual underpinnings of these artists’ collage works range from complex storytelling, to aesthetic experimentation, to theoretical postulates, all share a common impulse to transform fragmented materials into a new image bearing meaning at once. of its components and the reconstituted holistic composition. . For many of these artists, collage was a way to incorporate the substance of their lived reality into their art through a process that balanced degeneration and regeneration, which was often a reflection of the social upheavals of their time. Bearden stands out as a leader in this field, as he recursively sought to translate American and African themes that survived or were born out of the breakdowns of slavery and the diaspora into a visual language created from the fabricated imagery of his moment. He was fascinated by the continuum he perceived in the rituals surrounding birth and death, as well as the traditions that brought together factions of society to observe and reminisce. As Ruth Fine observes, “A great legacy of Bearden’s art is his belief that what we share as a global community is equal in interest and importance to what makes each of us unique…In the materiality of its expansive expression, method and message become one.”[II]

[I] Thelma Golden, “Projecting Blackness,” Romare Bearden in Black and White: Photomontage Projections (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1997) p. 40.

[II] Ruth Fine, “Bearden: The Spaces Between,” in Fine et al., The Art of Romare Bearden. (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 2003) p. 4.

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