The Chemistry of Color: Contemporary African-American Art at The Columbia Museum of Art

The Columbia Museum of Art celebrates its 60th anniversary year by hosting a major exhibition of art by contemporary African-American artists. The Chemistry of Color: Contemporary African-American Artists and its accompanying catalog chronicle the accomplishments and struggles of African-American artists in the latter half of the 20th century with approximately 72 works by a number of preeminent modern artists such as Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Faith Ringgold and Betye Saar. The exhibition includes works by 41 artists including Moe Brooker, James Brantley, Charles Searles, Sam Gilliam and others who have made major contributions to the development of American art. This show presents an opportunity for residents of South Carolina and the surrounding region to see an exhibition of nationally and internationally known African-American artists not seen in the state in nearly a decade.

James BrantleyThe lively form and exuberant color of the works – paintings, sculpture, works on paper and textiles – showcase diverse styles, from portraying scenes of African-American culture to abstraction and abstracted realism in which artists were breaking boundaries in terms of style. The Chemistry of Color represents turning points in the development of African-American art and presents the emerging visibility, tremendous sense of self-determination and experimentation of African-American artists after decades of relative invisibility in the art world.

The exhibition opens on Friday, February 5 at the beginning of Black History Month and runs through May 9, 2010. February 5 and every Sunday are free admission days, courtesy of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina. The exhibition comes from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia, known internationally for its collections of 19th- and 20th-century American paintings, sculptures, and works on paper. This represents the first partnership between the Columbia Museum of Art and this distinguished institution. PAFA received the ARCO Chemical Company Collection of African-American Art from Harold and Ann Sorgenti and was one of the few traditional art schools to accept African-Americans into its program since the 19th century. As African-American artists struggled to have their work accepted in the Philadelphia art community, societal changes in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s fed into tremendous artistic innovation, resulting in overwhelmingly bold and colorful works.

The Sorgenti Collection is traced to the early 1980s when ARCO Chemical Company, under Sorgenti’s leadership, underwent a period of tremendous growth committed to cultural diversity, the Philadelphia-based company formed an art collection that reflected a culture of inclusion in the organization. When ARCO Chemical was sold in 1998, Harold Sorgenti, a PAFA trustee since 1980 and chairman of the board from 1986 to 1993, and his wife Ann purchased the collection from the company and donated it to the Academy. The gift dramatically increased PAFA’s representation of contemporary African-American artists. Support for the catalog has come from Harold A. and Ann R. Sorgenti.

The Columbia Museum of Art has a long history of presenting exhibitions featuring African-American art and African cultural heritage – more than 37 years, beginning in 1972. In addition to the more than 25 exhibitions, the Museum’s collection includes works by more than 30 African-American artists, including Romare Bearden, John Biggers, Beverly Buchanan, Elizabeth Catlett, William H. Johnson, Betye Saar, Carrie Mae Weems and others.

In conjunction with the Columbia Museum of Art’s Year of American Art and The Chemistry of Color, the Museum presents an installation from its own collection, Color Vision: African-American Masters from the Collection, which opens Wednesday, February 17 and runs through May 30. Related programs and events will be announced in early 2010.

The Chemistry of Color: Contemporary African-American Artists was organized by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Supporting sponsorship for the Columbia presentation of The Chemistry of Color is provided by BB&T.

GENERAL MUSEUM INFORMATION: The Columbia Museum of Art is South Carolina’s premier international art museum and houses a world-class collection of European and American art. Founded in 1950, the Museum opened its new building on Main Street in 1998 with 25 galleries. The collection includes masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, porcelain and works by significant furniture and silver makers, as well as American, Asian, and modern and contemporary art. In recent years the Museum’s collection of Asian art and Antiquities has grown through generous gifts to the collection. Of particular interest are Sandro Botticelli’s Nativity, Claude Monet’s The Seine at Giverny, Canaletto’s View of the Molo, and art glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany. The Museum offers changing exhibitions from renowned museums as well as educational programs for all ages that include art classes, art camps, lectures, films and concerts. It is the recipient of a National Art Education Association award for its contributions to arts education and an Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts for outstanding contributions to the arts in South Carolina. Generous support to the Museum is provided by the City of Columbia, Richland County, the South Carolina Arts Commission and the Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties.

General Info: 803.799.2810
For information on group rates and tours, call 803.343.2163.
Website: columbiamuseum.org
Location: Main at Hampton Street in the heart of downtown Columbia, South Carolina
1515 Main Street
Hours: Wednesdays – Saturdays 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
First Friday of every month 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. (until 5:00 p.m. in December)
Sundays noon. – 5:00 p.m.
Closed Mondays, Tuesdays and major holidays
Museum Shop: Open during Museum Hours and Tuesdays 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Admission: $10 adults, $5 students, $8 military, $8 senior citizens (ages 65 and over).
Every Sunday is free courtesy of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina.
Free for museum members and children ages 5 and under.

Image: James Brantley, (b. 1945), “Vanessa’s Lips”, 1989. Oil on canvas, 54 x 54”. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, “The Chemistry of Color: The Harold A. and Ann R. Sorgenti Collection of Contemporary African-American Art

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