Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition

Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, United States
29 Feb 2020 - 24 May 2020

Hank Willis Thomas, Icarus (2016), Quilt, 56 1/2 x 85 1/4 X 2 in. © Hank Willis Thomas. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition presents works by African American artists of the 20th and 21st centuries together with examples by the early 20th century European artists with whom they engaged.

This exhibition explores the connections and frictions around modernism in the work of artists such as Romare Bearden, Robert Colescott, Renee Cox, Wassily Kandinsky, Norman Lewis, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Faith Ringgold, Hank Willis Thomas, and Carrie Mae Weems, among others. European modernist art has been an important, yet complicated influence on black artists for more than a century. The powerful push and pull of this relationship constitutes a distinct tradition for many African American artists who have mined the narratives of art history, whether to find inspiration, mount a critique, or claim their own space. Riffs and Relations examines these cross-cultural conversations and presents the divergent works that reflect these complex dialogues.

The exhibition is organized by The Phillips Collection with guest curator Dr. Adrienne L. Childs.

With lead support provided by The Frauke and Willem de Looper Charitable Fund, Altria Group, and The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts.

Brought to you by the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, The Robert Lehman Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Eric Richter and Charles Shoener, Amanda and Earl W. Stafford, and George Vradenburg and the Vradenburg Foundation.

With: Mequitta Ahuja, Charles Alston, Emma Amos, Romare Bearden, Sanford Biggers, Georges Braque, Moe Brooker, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Elizabeth Catlett, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Robert Colescott, Harold Cousins, Renee Cox, Beauford Delaney, Aaron Douglas, Leonardo Drew, David C. Driskell, John Edmonds, Ellen Gallager, Felrath Hines, Ayana V. Jackson, Jennie C. Jones, Loïs Mailou Jones, William H. Johnson, Wassily Kandisky, Titus Kaphar, Wifredo Lam, Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, Henri Matisse, Sam Middleton, Piet Mondrian, Claude Monet, Wangechi Mutu, Pablo Picasso, Janet Taylor Pickett, Martin Puryear, Winold Reiss, Faith Ringgold, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Chaim Soutine, Frank Stewart, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Alma Thomas, Hank Willis Thomas, Mickalene Thomas, Bob Thompson, Maurice Utrillo, Vincent van Gogh, Carrie Mae Weems, James Lesesne Wells, Hale Woodruff, Ossip Zadkine



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