Black Artists in Philadelphia, 1920s-1970s
September 2015 - January 2016
Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia
Barkley Hendricks"JSB III" (detail), 1968, oil on canvas, 48" x 34.5," Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
We Speak investigates the work of fifty Philadelphia-area artists of African descent from the New Negro Movement of the 1920s to the height of Black Power in the 1970s, exploring the degree to which these artists were either supported or neglected by the city’s cultural institutions. Art schools, academies, museums, galleries, social clubs and religious organizations all play a significant role in the story, as do intimate art circles and initiatives that provided opportunities for professional development. The exhibition tells a story of relationships that extended deeply and broadly, woven from network upon network of artists and their colleagues, mentors, protégés, champions, and audiences.
We Speak seeks to expand the understanding of why art communities were built, and how they helped create the conditions necessary for artists to thrive in the many pockets of the city’s art scene. Fourteen oral histories, published in the accompanying catalog, shaped our understanding of these developments and in many cases determined the specific works selected for display.