Galleries and other exhibition venues are still paying homage to artist Romare Bearden during this centennial year of his birth.
North Carolina-born in 1911 and raised in New York during the Harlem Renaissance years, as a visual artist, he experimented with many different mediums and artistic styles, but is best known for his richly textured collages. He authored books and articles including the children’s book “Lil Dan,” the “Drummer Boy” and his art evolved.
A selection from the collection of the Romare Bearden Foundation was on view last week where commerce and art mixed on the 9th floor exhibition wall at Macy’s Herald Square store near the furniture department. The celebratory “satellite exhibit” for Black History Month highlighted the range of the artist’s work from 1964 to 1984, watercolors, monoprints and litho prints, an artist’s proof, and oil on paper. Included with the collages is the Nov. 1, 1968 Time magazine cover on Mayor John Lindsay, the issue entitled: New York: The Breakdown of a City.
Diedra Harris-Kelley, Bearden’s grandniece, helped organize the exhibition with fellow co-director of the Foundation Johanne Bryant-Reid.
Macy’s in major cities are hosting Bearden exhibits. The final exhibit will be in Charlotte, North Carolina, Bearden’s hometown, on February 25th.
Harris-Kelley briefly gave a rundown of the work of the Foundation and the Centennial year highlights that included issuance of four postage stamps in September 2011, exhibits at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and other museums nationwide.
In Atlanta, Bearden is one of the 14 modern masters in the High Museum’s current exhibition “From Picasso to Warhol” that runs through April.
In New York through February, an exhibition of his work along with Albert Murray and Sam Shaw is in the show “Paris Revisited” at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Frederick Rose Hall (for info: http: jaic.org/exhibit).
The Macy’s event featured guest speaker Susan Taylor, editor of Essence Magazine for 27 of the 37 years she was with the magazine. Taylor spoke in front of a large rendering of Bearden’s collage “The Lamp”, inspired by Taylor and her daughter.
Taylor left Essence to form a program called National Cares Mentoring Movement, now in its fourth year. To the well-heeled audience, Taylor offered sobering statistics for children of color. Of all Black fourth-graders, 58 percent are functionally illiterate. In some cities, 80 percent of the boys drop out before finishing high school. Every day, 1,000 Black children are arrested. National Cares Mentoring Movement encourages Black adults to serve as mentors for at-risk young people.
Taylor said, “It is our responsibility to ensure our children are educated.” Underscoring the disparity in educational funding in communities of color, Taylor emphasized how some schools are terribly under resourced. She passionately beseeched the assembled, “Nobody is going to bring equity in education. On our watch, we better make it happen.” The assembled listened intently. Bearden too, was dedicated to working with children.
Taylor is committed to help those caught in a web of neglect and unable to thrive. “It’s now or never,” she said.
The evening continued with jazz band The New Cookers performing Bearden’s music.