By Tom Travis
Three exhibits honoring and celebrating work by African-American artists will be featured at The Flint Institute of Arts (FIA) over the next few months.
The FIA’s Contemporary wing will exhibit works from the FIA’s permanent collection of African-American artists and art of the African diaspora.
In the Graphics gallery, the exhibit Expressions will be on display until April 16. Expressions presents a selection of works on paper by African-American artists acquired by FIA over the last decade
And finally, in the Hodge and Henry galleries, an exhibit titled Ways of Seeing – The Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art at the University of Alabama opens Jan. 29 and will continue until April 23,
EVM toured the exhibits with the FIA’s associate curator Rachael Holstege, who’s been at the FIA for five years following an 2017 art history degree from Grand Valley State and and an arts administration degree from the University of Michigan – Flint.
Contemporary Wing – African-American artists and artwork of the African Diaspora
How these artists are experimenting with different techniques and methods of expression makes this exhibit is “really interesting,” Holstege said.
“There is strong personal narrative to these pieces. Each artist is trying to say something with their artwork. Many of them approach art from what we might call a ‘non-traditional’ way.
Holstege explained the artists are a mixture of up and coming, new artists and long established artists.
She pointed to a work by Purvis Young (1943-2010) called Overtown Street Concert, (1980) a piece described as mixed media on found wood. The artist, Young, was incarcerated for three years and during that time he studied art books.
“It was during this period that he experienced a shift in consciousness in which he realized that he could use his art to express himself and his grievances with the world, depicting accurate and honest observations of the fissures in society,” according to the provided description of the piece.
It goes on to describe a time, after his incarceration, when he would ride around the neighborhoods gathering materials and inspiration for his artwork, i.e., scraps of paper, restaurant menus, discarded doors, wood and metal to be used as his canvases.
“Young’s paintings and drawings became his voice of protest…Although he was considered the unofficial historian of Overtown, the themes in his work are universal to the Black experience.” [Overtown is a suburb of Miami where the artist lived.]
“The artist is not only using the artwork to say something, but also the materials used say something as well,” Holstege explained.
The FIA has been collecting artwork by artists of color since 1969 and today the collection includes more than 320 artworks. The gallery highlights some of the most important artists from the mid-twentieth century to present through paintings, sculpture and mixed media. Working in styles ranging from realism to abstraction, these artists tackle issues both personal and shared, including themes related to history and place, identity and representation, social justice and self-expression, according to an FIA brochure.
The first installation of this gallery will feature new works to the collection, including Keith Dunca’s Funeral Repass purchased with funds raised by the Community Gala in 2022.
Graphics Gallery – Expressions – works on paper by African-American Artists
FIA’s Graphics Gallery will feature Expressions which presents a selection of works on paper by African-American artists from the Flint and Detroit area. The artwork in the exhibit have been acquired by the Flint Institute of Arts over the last decade.
Several of these artworks were created through traditional techniques such as drawing, woodcut, lithography, screen printing, and etching. Despite their differences in method, all of these works can be seen as personal expressions of the artists who created them, according to the FIA brochure.
Ways of Seeing – The Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art at the Universtiy of Alabama
The Hodge and Henry galleries will exhibit Ways of Seeing – The Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art at the University of Alabama beginning Jan. 29 until April 23. The Paul R. Jones (1928-2010) collection includes one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of twentieth century African American art in the world. The collection includes art in a variety of media from more than 600 artists, including Emma Amos, Jack Whitten, Sam Gilliam and more.
The Paul R. Jones Collection includes one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of 20th century African-American art in the world, amassed over decades by Paul Raymond Jones, who was described by Art & Antiques magazine as “one of the top art collectors in the country.”
Jones donated the 2,000-plus piece collection to the College of Arts and Sciences at The University of Alabama in 2008. The collection includes art in a variety of media from more than 600 artists, including Emma Amos, Jack Whitten, Sam Gilliam, Howardena Pindell, Romare Bearden, and Jacob Lawrence, all of whom are represented in this exhibition. These selections display the breadth and depth of the collection, showcasing artists working in a variety of materials and styles from the 1930s to the present day, according to the Paul R. Jones website.
What is a curator?
Holstege explained that”The curator is responsible for taking works that are in our collection and creates shows or make changes with the different works already displayed in the galleries. Once the works to be displayed are chosen I’m responsible for doing research and writing labels that our visitors will read as they tour the gallery.”
Visiting the FIA
The FIA is open 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and 1 – 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free for children 12 years and younger and for Genesee County residents and FIA members. For all others the cost is $10 for adults and $8 for senior citizens. Every Saturday is free admission for all through a grant from Huntington Bank.
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at email@example.com