February 5 – April 19, 2009
Organized by the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Harlem Renaissance included more than 100 paintings, sculptures, and photographs by artists such as Richmond Barthé, Aaron Douglas, Palmer Hayden, William H. Johnson, Malvin Gray Johnson, Jacob Lawrence, Archibald J. Motley Jr., James VanDerZee, and others. From the “vogue” of Harlem in the twenties to the Great Depression in the thirties, artists created innovative works that expressed the uniqueness of their experiences as African American artists, while participating in larger developments in American art.
Harlem Renaissance marked the first exhibition of African American art at the Museum in more than 20 years. Organized thematically, Harlem Renaissance explored a number of subjects, including Harlem as a literary center, portraiture and the “New Negro,” life in Paris and abroad, the influence of European modernism and African art, as well as images related to daily life, African American history, and the South. The exhibition also examined the idea of Harlem and the Harlem Renaissance as a later artistic subject, through works by Romare Bearden and Faith Ringgold. Highlights included Aaron Douglas’s The Creation (1927), Palmer Hayden’s Nous Quatre à Paris (We Four in Paris) (ca. 1930), Archibald J. Motley Jr.’s Jockey Club (1929), and Faith Ringgold’s Jo Baker’s Bananas (1997).
Illustrations for books and publications revealed Harlem as a literary and artistic center. The exhibition included an original copy of The New Negro (1925), an important anthology edited by Alain Locke, in addition to James Weldon Johnson’s God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse (1927), which featured illustrations by Aaron Douglas. Harlem Renaissance also explored issues of representation in African American art, featuring portraits and portrait “types” by artists such as Winold Reiss and Malvin Gray Johnson.
Harlem Renaissance displayed the types of works artists created while living and traveling abroad. Throughout the twenties and thirties, numerous artists traveled to Paris where they received instruction, visited museums, and escaped the restrictions of segregation. Painted while living in the South of France, William H. Johnson’s Village Houses, Cagnes-sur-Mer (ca. 1928-1929) reflects the influence of European expressionism.
The exhibit showed the influence of African art, through works such as West Coast artist Sargent Johnson’s copper Mask (1933) and Malvin Gray Johnson’s painting Self-Portrait (1934). During this period, many artists turned to their own lives and experiences for inspiration. Seeking to create accurate depictions of African American life and culture, artists portrayed a variety of subjects and styles. From urban life to folklore and the South, artists sought to be fresh and modern in their portrayals of life. Examples included Archibald J. Motley Jr.’s Saturday Night (1935) as well as William H. Johnson’s Jacobia Hotel (1930) and Landscape with Sun Setting, Florence, South Carolina (1930).
Harlem Renaissance also featured works related to African American history, which became an important theme among artists by the thirties and during the era of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Artist Hale Woodruff’s Negroes with Jackson at New Orleans (1934) reflects this new interest and the stylistic influence of the Mexican muralists. Jacob Lawrence also turned to history on numerous occasions throughout his career, depicting scenes from the life of important historical figures, such as Harriet Tubman in Daybreak – A time to Rest (1967).
The period’s lasting influence was also explored in later depictions of the Harlem Renaissance and Jazz Age, through Romare Bearden’s Jazz: (Chicago) Grand Terrace – 1930s (1964) and Faith Ringgold’s Jo Baker’s Bananas (1997).
In addition to painting and sculpture, the exhibit highlighted photography as an important medium of artistic expression during the Harlem Renaissance. Photographers such as James VanDerZee captured the people and activities of Harlem, while others, such as James Latimer Allen and author and Harlem enthusiast Carl Van Vechten, captured the likenesses of notable Harlemites and Renaissance figures. Harlem Renaissance also displayed photographs of Oklahoma City’s African American community during this period, which includes musician Charlie Christian, the young author Ralph Ellison, and the area known as “Deep Deuce.”
Harlem Renaissance also included early short musical films of the period, featuring the first filmed appearances of Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Josephine Baker, and Bessie Smith. These films reveal the astonishing musical talent during the Harlem Renaissance as well as a visual document of black urban life in the 1920s and 30s.
Lenders to the exhibition included the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.; and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
A catalogue and audio tour accompanied the exhibition.
The African American Experience in Oklahoma: A Guide to the African American Resources. Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society. 1996 CD-ROM.
Arnold, Anita G. Charlie and the Deuce. Oklahoma City: Black Liberated Arts Center, 1993.
Legendary Times and Tales of Second Street. Oklahoma City: Black Liberated Arts Center, Inc., 1995.
Ater, Rene. Making History: Meta Warrick Fullers Ethiopia American Art, vol. 17, no 3 (Autumn 2003): 13-31.
Baker, Houston. Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.
Bearden, Romare. The Negro Artist and Modern Art. Opportunity 12, no. 12 (December 1934): 371-72.
Bearden, Romare, and Harry Henderson. A History of African-American Artists from 1792 to the Present. New York: Pantheon, 1993.
Black Dispatch (newspaper), Oklahoma City, 1919-1949
Bontemps, Arna, ed. The Harlem Renaissance Remembered. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1972.
Boyd, Herb, ed. The Harlem Reader: A Celebration of New Yorks Most Famous Neighborhood, From the Renaissance Years to the Twenty-First Century. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.
Calo, Mary Ann. Distinction and Denial: Race, Nation, and the Critical Construction of the African-American Artist, 1920-1940. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2007.
Campbell, Mary Schmidt, et al. Harlem Renaissance: Art of Black America. New York: Studio Museum in Harlem, 1987.
Chude-Sokei, Louis. The Last Darky, Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006.
Colin, Paul, with an introduction by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Karen C.C. Dalton. Josephine Baker and La Revue Ngre: Paul Colins Lithographs of Le Tumulte Noir in Paris, 1927. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1998.
Daniels, Douglas Henry. One Oclock Jump: The Unforgettable History of the Oklahoma City Blue Devils. Boston: Beacon Press, 2006.
Dolan, Hubbard. The Souls of Black Folk: One Hundred Years Later. Columbia: The University of Missouri Press, 2003.
Douglas, Ann. Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995.
Earle, Susan ed. Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist. New Haven and London: Yale University Press in association with Spencer Museum of Art, The University of Kansas, 2007.
Early, Gerald, ed. My Souls High Song: The Collected Writings of Countee Cullen, Voice of the Harlem Renaissance. New York: Doubleday, 1991.
Ellison, Ralph. Shadow and Act. New York: Vintage Books, 1995.
Farrington, Lisa E. Faith Ringgold. San Francisco: Pomegranate, 2004.
Favor, J. Martin. Authentic Blackness: The Folk in the Negro Renaissance. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.
Fine, Ruth, et al. The Art of Romare Bearden. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2003.
Gelburd, Gail and Thelma Golden and a conversation with Albert Murray. Romare Bearden in Black and White: Photomontage Projections 1964. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1997.
Goeser, Caroline. Picturing the New Negro: Harlem Renaissance Print Culture and Modern Black Identity. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2007.
Goins, Wayne E. and Craig R. McKinney. A Biography of Charlie Christian, Jazz Guitars King of Swing. Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2005.
Harlem: Mecca of the New Negro, Survey Graphic 6 (March 1925).
Harlem: The Vision of Morgan and Marvin Smith. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1998.
Helbling, Mark. The Harlem Renaissance: the One and the Many. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999.
Holloway, Camara Dia. Portraiture and the Harlem Renaissance: The Photographs of James Latimer Allen. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1999.
Huggins, Nathan Irvin. Harlem Renaissance. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971.
Hughes, Langston. The Big Sea. Reprint. New York: Hill and Wang, 1993.
Hutchinson, George. The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995.
—, ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Harlem Renaissance. Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Johnson, Hannibal B. Black Wall Street: From Riot to Renaissance in Tulsas Historic Greenwood District. Waco, TX: Eakins Press, 1998.
Johnson, James Weldon. Black Manhattan. 1930. Reprint. New York: De Cap Press, 1991.
Kirschke, Amy Helene. Aaron Douglas: Art, Race, and the Harlem Renaissance. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1999.
—, Art in Crisis: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Struggle for African American Identity. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2007.
LeFalle-Collins, Lizzetta and Judith Wilson. Sargent Johnson: African American Modernist. San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1998.
Leininger-Miller, Theresa. New Negro Artists in Paris: African American Painters and Sculptors in the City of Light, 1922-1934. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001.
Lewis, David Levering. When Harlem Was in Vogue. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979; 1989.
Lewis, Samella. African American Art and Artists. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.
Locke, Alain, ed. The New Negro. New York: Albert and Charles Boni, 1925. Reprint. New York: Simon and Schuster Inc., 1992.
Mooney, Amy M. Archibald J. Motley Jr. Petaluma, CA: Pomegranate Communications, Inc., 2004.
Moore, Kendrick. Oklahoma City African-American Discovery Guide. Oklahoma City: Oklahoma African American Trail of Tears Tours, 2000.
Osofsky, Gilbert. Harlem: The Making of a Ghetto, Negro New York, 1890-1930. New York: Harper & Row, 1966.
Patton, Shannon F. African-American Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Powell, Richard J. Black Art: A Cultural History. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 2003.
—, The Blues Aesthetic: Black Culture and Modernism. Washington, D.C.: Washington Project for the Arts, 1989.
—, Homecoming: The Art and Life of William H. Johnson. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution; New York: Rizzoli, 1991
Powell, Richard J., et al. Rhapsodies in Black: Art of the Harlem Renaissance. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997.
Reynolds, Gary and Beryl J. Wright. Against the Odds: African-American Artists and the Harmon Foundation. Newark, NJ: Newark Museum, 1989.
Rodgers, Kenneth G., Jacquelyn Francis, et al. Climbing Up the Mountain: The Modern Art of Malvin Gray Johnson. Durham, NC: North Carolina Central University Art Museum, 2002.
Schoener, Allan, ed. Harlem on My Mind: Cultural Capital of Black America, 1900-1968. New York: Random House, 1968.
Sharp, Wanda Faye. The Black Dispatch. Masters thesis. University of Oklahoma, Norman, 1951.
Stewart, Jeffery C. Winold Reiss: An Illustrated Checklist of his Portraits. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990.
—, ed. The Critical Temper of Alain Locke: A Selection of His Essays on Art and Culture. New York: Garland, 1983.
Urban, Kerri Lynn. Music and place on Oklahoma Citys Deep Deuce. Masters thesis. University of Oklahoma, Norman, 1996.
Van Vechten, Carl. The Splendid Drunken Twenties: Selections from the Daybooks, 1922-1930. Edited by Bruck Kellner. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003.
Venderys, Margaret Rose. Barth: A Life in Sculpture. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2008.
Welge, William D. Oklahoma City Rediscovered. Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2007.
Wheat, Ellen Harkins, with a contribution by Patricia Hills. Jacob Lawrence: American Painter. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press in association with the Seattle Art Museum, 1986.
Willis, Deborah. Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers 1840 to the Present. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2000.
Willis, Deborah and Jane Lusaka, eds. Visual Journal: Photography in Harlem and D.C. in the Thirties and Forties. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996.
Willis-Braithwaite, Deborah. VanDerZee: Photographer 1886-1983. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. with the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 1993.
Wintz, Cary D. Black Culture and the Harlem Renaissance. Houston: Rice University Press, 1988.
—, ed. The Harlem Renaissance, 1920-1940 (7 volumes). New York: Garland, 1996.
Wright, John A. A Stronger Form within a Finer Frame: Portraying African-Americans in the Black Renaissance. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Art Museum, 1990.