African American Masterpieces Celebrated in New Canton Museum of Art Exhibition

African American Masterpieces Celebrated in New Canton Museum of Art Exhibition

Canton Museum of Art (CMA) presents a new exhibition African American Masterpieces: Collection Highlights on view now through March 4, 2018. In conjunction with an exhibition of woodcarvings by Elijah Pierce, this exhibition showcases paintings and ceramics created between 1945 and 2010.

In the past, African American art was expressed through basket weaving, small drums, quilting, pottery, painting, and woodcarving. Today, most major cities have developed museums devoted to African American artists. Important collections of African American art are becoming more prevalent, and this exhibition celebrates the works from the Canton Museum of Art's permanent collection.

Artists featured in the African American Masterpieces exhibition:

Elizabeth Catlett
Born in 1915, Elizabeth Catlett who creates sensuous figurative sculpture and prints on the subject of African American women. She learned at an early stage that she would have to work around racism in order to achieve her goals. Although she was a talented student, Catlett 's chosen college, the Carnegie Institute of Technology, rejected her. Nonetheless, she subsequently attended Howard University, graduating cum laude. Catlett chose African American woman as her subject while she was studying with Grant Wood at the University of Iowa. Catlett's intense interest in the mother-and-child theme reflects her own history; her father died before her birth, so her mother and maternal grandmother raised her. Catlett won the Rosenwald Fellowship, making it possible for her to go to Mexico in 1946 to study mural painting and printmaking. In 1947, she married the Mexican artist Francisco Mora and became an advocate for workers in her adopted country. She empathetically pictured the evils of poverty, women laboring at menial jobs, children working and caring for smaller youngsters and homeless youth. Although men do appear in her work, most of Catlett's sculpture represents women or mothers and children. She explains, "Because I am a woman and know how women feel sin, body and mind, I sculpt, draw, and print women, generally black women."

Syd Carpenter
Syd Carpenter was originally a painting major at Temple University's Tyler School of Art. The prerequisite electives she took included ceramics and she became captivated with the ceramic medium. Her interest in ceramics was a gradual process, but by the time she completed her MFA she knew she had found the perfect medium. Carpenter's work has gone through several phases. Her early work was vessel-like, stretched and pulled, with pressure applied from the inside. She used intense, bright surface colors. In the mid 80s, she began experimenting with sculptural forms that turned into 4 x 4 foot wall hangings. In the late 80s she journeyed to Brazil. While she was there she attended a Kodumbro ritual (a syntheses of the Yoruba religion and Catholicism). As an African American, it gave Carpenter a heightened sense of her heritage, and the event became the next catalyst for her work. In the 90s her walls and vessels pieces now suggest the rhythm of both plant life and human spirituality.

Romare Bearden
Romare Bearden was born in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1914. Soon after his birth, his family moved to New York City's Harlem. During the mid 30s, when Bearden was a student of George Brosz at the Art Students League, he founded the 306 Group for black artists living in Harlem. During the 40s Bearden combined African symbols, such as masks and "conjure women" with stylized realism. In 1950 he went to Paris and enrolled at the Sorbonne, returning to New York City in 1954. After his stay in Paris, Bearden's work became more abstract. In the 60s the civil rights movement influenced Bearden. Bearden, always a humanist, finally realized the strength of his southern memories and the Harlem culture of his youth in the 60s. Transforming specific often-humble incidents into universal themes, he classified and gave a lasting aesthetic identity to one variety of the American experience. Bearden endorses this thought when he wrote: "It is not my aim to paint about the Negro in America in terms of propaganda. (It is to depict) the life of my people as I know it, passionately and dispassionately as Breughel. My intention is to reveal through pictorial complexities the life I know." Throughout his career, Bearden has promoted opportunities for black artists. He has served as art director of the Harlem Cultural Council and helped organize the Clinque Gallery. In 1969, he wrote "The Painters' Mind" with Carol Holty. By the time he passed away in 1988 at the age of 75, Romare Bearden was considered a cultural icon.

Clifton Clay
Clifton Clay was born in Mississippi in 1935. His heritage is both African American and Native American. Both his mother and grandmother are Choctaw, with his grandmother being born on a reservation. Clay spent his early years in Oklahoma, California, and Arizona until his family settled in Cleveland when he was in his teens. Clay graduated from John Jay High School in Cleveland. After graduating, Clay attended the Cleveland Institute of Art and studied under Paul B. Travis and John P. Miller. As a young man, he worked out West, including as a ranch hand - Clay has retained this interest throughout his life. He has also worked at the Karamu House as a painter, painting houses. Many of the symbols found in Clay's work are related to African art and are his contemporary take on the subject. In "The Lion Hunt", George A. Zetzer wrote that "Clay's abstract painting expresses a particular attitude each of us has towards the object. One can see a different attitude in each hunter as they seem to dance around their quarry". A cross between Native American and African American. "Lion Hunt" was one of his first paintings for sale. Clifton Clay is in his eighties, lives in Cleveland and is still creating art.

The Canton Museum of Art (CMA) is one of Ohio's premier museums for an exceptional visual arts experience. CMA is recognized for powerful national touring exhibits; dynamic CMA-original exhibits; an unrivaled Permanent Collection of American watercolors and contemporary ceramics; and innovative education outreach programs, in-Museum classes, and workshops.

Admission: Regular admission is $8 Adults; $6, Seniors and Students (with valid I.D.); Museum Members are Free; and Children 12 and under, Free. Tickets are available at the Museum Ticket Office during Museum hours. For group visits, discounts, and tours, please call 330.453.7666 at least two weeks prior to your visit for reservations and/or to request a docent-led tour.


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