Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1997-1998 index

Distributed March 20, 1998
Contact: Linda Mahdesian

Bell Gallery to present Kelley collection of African-American art

The Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art will be presented by the David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University from April 18 through May 31, 1998. The Kelley collection has been called "one of the finest that has been assembled tracing the history of African-American art."

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University will present the "Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art" from April 18 through May 31, 1998. The Gallery is located at 64 College St. in the List Art Center. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The exhibition and related programs are all free and open to the public.

The exhibition includes more than 80 paintings, drawings and prints. It surveys the history of African-American art from the 1860s to the present day, with particular strength in the period of the Harlem Renaissance. The exhibition features prominent 19th- and 20th-century painters including Edward M. Bannister, Jean Michel Basquiat, Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Thornton Dial, Robert C. Duncanson, Jacob Lawrence and Bill Traylor.

Art historian David Driskell, distinguished university professor of art at the University of Maryland at College Park, will give the keynote address for the exhibition at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 18, at the gallery. Driskell considers the Kelley collection "one of the finest that has been assembled tracing the history of African-American art."

The exhibition at the Bell Gallery is mounted with two goals in mind: first, to celebrate African-American art and place it within the larger context of art and social history; and second, to broaden the Gallery's audience beyond the borders of Brown and particularly to address the underserved African-American community.

Presentation of the Kelley Collection at Brown is supported in part by the Edward Mitchell Bannister Society and The Links Inc. The Bannister Society was founded in connection with this exhibition and will continue to exist long after its presentation in order to promote the work of African American artists in the community and throughout the state. In addition, the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum has mounted an exhibition of African-American art from its permanent collection - One Voice, Many Visions - which is currently on display through June. The RISD Museum is located at 224 Benefit St.

The Kelley Collection highlights a number of important movements in African-American art. Nineteenth-century artists were highly influenced by European painting traditions. In the exhibition, this style is represented by portraiture and landscapes by Duncanson and Bannister. Henry O. Tanner was one of a number of artists, both black and white, who sought academic training in Europe. African-American artists often found greater acceptance there.

Several modern American movements are reflected in the Kelley Collection. Beginning in the 20th century, African American artists incorporated depictions of black culture into their works. The people and spirit of the Harlem Renaissance were documented by artists such as James Van Der Zee and Palmer Hayden and later by pioneering abstract artists like Norman Lewis and Romare Bearden.

During the Great Depression, federal government programs provided Archibald Motley, William H. Johnson and many other African Americans with training and jobs in the arts. Jacob Lawrence and other artists of the late '30s and '40s, began to introduce elements that referred to their heritage - such as colors and patterns derived from African textiles - into their art. Finally, the Kelley Collection includes a strong holding of self-taught artists. Bill Traylor, Sister Gertrude Morgan and Thorton Dial all exemplify the imaginative variety of work produced by African Americans outside the academy. Their works are often designated as naive and "outsider art."

Related programs

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Bell Gallery will present educational programs to serve both an academic and general audience. The programs will include lectures, film screenings, a poetry reading, a dance performance, tours of the exhibition, and the use of the exhibition for several teacher and student workshops.

Additional programs may be added when the arrangements have been finalized. Contact the Brown News Bureau for the latest information: (401) 863-2476. All events will take place in the List Art Center, 64 College St.

Saturday, April 18
7 p.m. Keynote lecture by David Driskell, distinguished university professor of art, University of Maryland at College Park and a leading authority on African-American art.
8 p.m. Reception - Lobby of List Art Center

Sunday, April 19
1 p.m. Tour of exhibition with collectors Harmon and Harriet Kelley
2 p.m. African dance performance by Bamidele Dancers and Drummers.
4 p.m. "The Aesthetics of Hiding and Revealing," a lecture about masked performances from the Cameroon grasslands by Ajume Wingo, fellow, W.E.B. DuBois Institute, Harvard University.

Thursday, April 23
7 p.m. Film "Body and Soul," (1924), directed by Oscar Micheaux with Paul Robeson. 80 mins. Shown in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Robeson's birth. With commentary by Ray Rickman, literary critic.

Sunday, April 26
2 p.m. Jazz on Film, a three-part program with excerpts of rare jazz films, a selection of films on alto saxophonist, composer, and band leader Jackie McLean; and a screening of "The Sound of Miles Davis," produced by Robert Herridge, directed by Jack Smite, recorded April 2, 1959 in Robert Herridge Theater, New York. 27 mins. With commentary by Ferdinand Jones, jazz enthusiast and professor of psychology emeritus, Brown; and Charlie Drago, writer and jazz critic

Thursday, April 30
7 p.m. Film "Imitation of Life" (1959), directed by Douglas Sirk with Lana Turner, Juanita Moore, Susan Kohner. 124 mins. With commentary by Ray Rickman, literary critic.

Sunday, May 3
2 p.m. Poetry reading by Michael Harper, poet laureate emeritus of Rhode Island, University professor and professor of English, Brown.
3:30 p.m. "Selections from the Harlem Renaissance," a lecture by Daylanne English, visiting assistant professor, English Department, Brown.

Sunday, May 24
1:30 p.m. Tour of exhibition with Bell Gallery curator Michael Herrmann