The most fascinating aspect of collage for me is how dramatically it presents the narrative or figure it’s focused on. In the work of skillful collagists, like Hannah Hoch, Wangechi Mutu, and Henri Matisse, their reinvention of the figure is rendered in highly stylized terms so melodramatic that the characters that emerge read as mythic. I approach these artists’ work wide-eyed, expecting to be surprised. I have a similar expectation when I look at the work of Romare Bearden — visual historian of the American South, member of the Harlem Renaissance, soldier, songwriter, author, and artist activist — because he excels in these things that collagists can do.
One sees all of this in the current DC Moore Gallery show Romare Bearden: Bayou Fever and Related Works. In “Bayou Fever, Untitled (The Conjur Woman)” (1979) a woman warrior breathes fire against an approaching demon figure. The demon is an amalgam of geometrically patterned cloth, with a head crowned with spikes of paper. The woman is simply a brown body, naked, facing the creature while exhaling flame. This image likely has to do with Bearden’s exploration of Obeah, a religious practice originating in Ghana and found in the Caribbean, and of Hoodoo, the complementary practice found in the United States. In Bearden’s hands, the characters of this collage, like other prominent ones in the show, including the Swamp Witch and the Hatchet Man, become part of a pantheon, a great mythological scheme particular only to the black American South.
The idea behind the Bayou Fever series of 21 collages from 1979 (shown here for the first time in public) was to make a ballet, choreographed by Alvin Ailey, with Bearden’s work providing the main characters and settings of the performance. The artist had an interest in dance, perhaps developed through his wife who had her own company, the Nanette Bearden Contemporary Dance Theater.
The exhibition also includes about 30 additional artworks chosen to extend the imagery and themes of the Bayou Fever series. Altogether one gets to experience paintings and collages of propulsive color, unconventional figuration, and consistent visual surprise. Though this work was never fully realized, it can never die.
Romare Bearden: Bayou Fever and Related Works continues at DC Moore Gallery (535 West 22nd Street, 2nd Floor, Chelsea, Manhattan) through April 29.
Fayneese Miller is under fire after the school failed to renew the contract of an adjunct who showed artworks depicting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.
Hundreds of visitors were evacuated from the Incan site over the weekend.
Located in Des Moines, Iowa, this residency for emerging and established artists includes studio and living space, a $1,000 monthly stipend, and more.
The artist’s works resonate in West Texas, where the story of dehumanized and exploited migrant laborers is tangible and ever-present.
A posthumous show of Price’s work is curated by James Hart of Phil Space, the self-proclaimed “gallerst of death.”
She has raised generations of Bay Area artists and changed the local landscape with her public artworks, colleagues tell Hyperallergic.
Saim Sadiq’s crushing debut, the first Pakistani film to be shortlisted for the Oscars, is imbued with a crisis of space.
Fully-funded teaching assistantships are standard for MFA students at the top-ranked, flagship research university in the state of New York.
Asma Naeem’s appointment comes in the wake of a tumultuous period for the institution.
I couldn’t in good conscience accept an invitation to an exhibition hosted and sponsored by a brutal regime.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed centers the artist’s campaign to stop the “artwashing” of the Sackler family’s role in the opioid crisis.
Researchers are investigating whether the presence of lead formate originated from past attempts to conserve the painting.