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Black Artists in America: From Civil Rights to the Bicentennial

The most ambitious exhibition program the Dixon has ever conceived, Black Artists in America, organized in three installments, considers the last two-thirds of the twentieth century in three discrete blocks of time. The first show, presented at the Dixon in the fall of 2021, examined the period between the start of the Great Depression in 1929 and the emergence of the civil rights era during the mid-1950s. This second installment, Black Artists in America: From Civil Rights to the Bicentennial, focuses on the further rise and maturation of the civil rights movement, the growing activism and assertiveness of Black artists throughout the 1960s, and the battle for greater recognition and rights in the early 1970s. The final iteration, which will open at the Dixon in the fall of 2025, will pick up where the second leaves off, carrying us through to the millennium and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, that continue to shape our world.

In the 1960s, Black artists who came of age during World War II and the increasing civil rights activity of the 1950s continued to challenge inequities in the art world. They created works that celebrated their racial identity, communicated with Black audiences, and participated in the struggle for political, economic, and social equality. Black Artists in America: From Civil Rights to the Bicentennial explores African American art during the turbulence of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. The exhibition considers the various ways in which Black American artists responded to growing civil unrest, challenging the cultural, environmental, political, racial, and social issues of the era.

Black Artists in America: From Civil Rights to the Bicentennial will be composed of about fifty paintings, sculptures, and works on paper drawn from public and private collections across the country. Just as with the first BAA exhibition, this second installment will present important works of art by some of the most iconic artists of the twentieth century, including Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Norman Lewis, Alma Thomas, and Charles White, alongside unjustly overlooked artists such as Marie Johnson Calloway, Merton Simpson, and Jack Whitten.

An accompanying catalogue, with essays by Celeste-Marie Bernier, Earnestine Jenkins, and Alaina Simone, will be available for purchase.

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