By J. K. Schmid, AFRO Baltimore Staff
A rare exhibit of of one of a “Visionary” American artist is on display at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum.
Over 70 pieces of Romare Bearden’s work, largely gathered locally, demonstrates why the museum considers Bearden “as one of the most important visual artists of the 20th century.”
“This is an exhibition that has work from his entire career,” Jackie Copeland, Director of Education and Visitor Services told the AFRO. “We borrowed some works from the Romare Bearden Foundation in New York and borrowed quite a bit from Maryland collectors.”
Sampling from Bearden’s entire history as an artist, “Romare Bearden: Visionary Artist” includes examples of Bearden’s most popular medium, collage, as well as experiments in material and style. Bearden is a former AFRO cartoonist.
“He was an experimenter,” Copeland said. “I call him a visionary artist-not to be confused with the American Visionary Art Museum-which is self-trained artists-he was not self-trained. But because he experimented.
Bearden’s classical training and interests in the classics permeates his work, influence from the Dutch masters is revealed by the sun and moon always partly obscured or framed outside. A sketch of dueling hoplites outside Troy and a collage of Odysseus tied to the mast of his ship show how much Homer had a hold on him.
“He was a student of literature, he read Homer, and the idea of an odyssey was something that resonated for him because he took a journey from the South to Harlem,” Copeland said. “And he felt that he was always on a journey.”
Bearden was born 1911 in Charlotte, North Carolina and took part with his family in The Great Migration.
His journeys took him to many college campuses such as Lincoln University, Boston, and Columbia. He finally graduated with from NYU with a degree in science and education, with a focus in mathematics.
He travelled to Europe, first in US Army during World War II and returned to Paris to study art and philosophy in the 50s.
“During the Civil Rights Movement, he was doing creating many kinds of work and he started a group called The Spiral, who were trying to figure out what these Black artists’ response was going to be to the Civil Rights Movement,” Copeland said.
One of his submissions to the project, a collage of a burial scene, is on exhibit.
“Romare Bearden: Visionary Artist” is not a travelling exhibit, when it concludes March 3, the collected works will be returned to their original owners.