Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Continues Collection Series with “Statements: African American Art from the Museum’s Collection”

Highlighting over 40 works by African Americans across 80 years

Part of a series that has included Cosmic Dialogues: Selections from the Latin American Collection and the ongoing A History of Photography: Selections from the Museum’s Collection

HOUSTON—January 19, 2016—This month, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, presents the latest exhibition in a series of tightly focused installations highlighting unique areas of strength in the collections of the MFAH: Statements: African American Art from the Museum’s Collection, featuring 37 artists with 47 works spanning eight decades. Curated by Alison de Lima Greene, curator of contemporary art and special projects, Statements is on view in the Audrey Jones Beck Building from January 24, 2016, to April 24, 2016.

“The deep resources of the Museum’s collection are relatively unknown to our larger public,” commented Gary Tinterow, director of the MFAH. “Several years ago, the Museum launched a series of collection-based shows to bring these treasures to light. With Statements: African American Art from the Museum’s Collection, we are drawing together outstanding works from several departments, including photography, works on paper, and decorative arts, as well as painting and sculpture, in order to highlight a vital part of our growing collections. Ranging from Richmond Barthé’s iconic Feral Benga of 1935 to our most recent acquisition, Mark Bradford’s Circa 1992, created in 2015, these statements have shaped the course of American art as we know it today.”

“The MFAH’s history of collecting African American art is closely tied to our immediate community,” Alison de Lima Greene added. “In 1950 the Museum awarded John Biggers the purchase prize at our 25th Annual Houston Artists Exhibition for The Cradle, a monumental drawing that remains both the starting point and cornerstone of our African American collection. Recent years have seen terrific new acquisitions of works by artists who have lived in our city; Dawolu Jabari Anderson, Trenton Doyle Hancock, and Mequitta Ahuja, to name only a few, have played a major role in giving our collection both direction and depth.”

Statements presents three interwoven themes and segments, starting with the generation of artists who came of age between the 1930s and 1960s, including William Edmondson, John Biggers, Carroll Harris Simms, Art Smith, Roy DeCarava, Loretta Pettway, Felrath Hines, and Melvin Edwards, among others. Viewed as pioneers, these leaders and mentors are celebrated not only for their forward-looking work, but also for the recognition they received that helped break down institutional barriers.

The second segment of Statements focuses on artists who charted the changing social landscape of America from the 1950s forward. The rise of Civil Rights is represented by photographs by Gordon Parks, Ernest C. Withers, and Louise Ozell Martin, which document such turning points in American history as the first desegregated bus ride in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1956, or the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968. Other more subjective examples in this section reflect both urban and rural experience, including works by Roy DeCarava, Earlie Hudnall, Jean Lacy, Thornton Dial, Sr., and Lonnie Holley among others.

The final section of Statements focuses on contemporary artists who directly challenge stereotypes and map the complexities of identity politics through portraiture and narrative. Included in this segment are works Joyce Scott, Alison Saar, Kara Walker, Glenn Ligon, Demetrius Oliver, and Nick Cave, as well as Tierney Malone, Michael Ray Charles, David McGee, Robert Pruitt, and Dawolu Jabari Anderson.

This exhibition is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Generous funding is provided by:

Media Contacts
Laine Lieberman, publicist / 713.639.7516

Sarah Baker, associate publicist / 713.800.5345