February 17 – June 2, 2024
Vision & Spirit: Black Artists in the Bank of America Collection, is an exhibition composed of more than 100 paintings, prints, drawings, photographs and mixed media works by 48 renowned African American artists born in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Highlighting key aspects of their lives, as well as the important objects they created, the exhibition focuses on these artists’ strength and resilience as creative forces whose work continues to shape our understanding of the world.
On loan from Bank of America’s Art in Our Communities program, the exhibition was curated in partnership with the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture, Charlotte, NC. In selecting works of art for the exhibition, guest curator Dexter Wimbley sought images and concepts that embody the exhibition’s central theme of resilience. Throughout this process he continually reflected on the social and political times in which the works of art were created.
The exhibit features work from artists born in the 19th and 20th centuries, but the images and concepts depicted span an even greater period in time. There are pieces that depict the middle passage – the taking of enslaved Africans by boat across the Atlantic – the Underground Railroad and the Great Migration of Black Americans from the South during the Jim Crow era.
The breadth of work in the exhibition further includes portraits of unknown and well-known individuals, including influential figures such as Muhammad Ali, Harriet Tubman, John and Alice Coltrane, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It also includes photographs taken during the Harlem Renaissance and the civil rights movement, as well as intimate and quiet moments in early to mid- century and contemporary Black life.
Artists in the exhibition include Rev. Henry Clay Anderson, Chelle Barbour, Romare Bearden, Dawoud Bey, Willie Cole, Murry DePillars, Jacob Lawrence, Whitfield Lovell, Gordon Parks, Faith Ringgold, Jamel Shabazz, and James VanDerZee.
Seeking to balance the presentation of figuration and abstraction, Vision & Spirit also includes the work of several emerging or lesser-known contemporary African American artists to explore the idea that all art exists on a continuum, and that art being made today is both historically and psychologically influenced by art made in the past.
Vision & Spirit inspires viewers to go on a journey of revelation and discovery and opens the door for greater discussions about the past, present, and future of African Americans.
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, © Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
This exhibition has been loaned through the Bank of America Art in our Communities program.