‘Walking the Camino’ Explores a Treacherous Trek Through Spain

‘Walking the Camino’ Explores a Treacherous Trek Through Spain

Screens: In the Middle Ages, pilgrims walked the 500-mile El Camino de Santiago de Compostela as a pilgrimage to the tomb of Apostle St. James. It was an... By Stephen James Ross 10/22/2014
Chris Pérez, Selena’s Husband, Faces His Past and Looks Forward, Musically

Chris Pérez, Selena’s Husband, Faces His Past and Looks Forward, Musically

Music: Chris Pérez never saw it coming. “All I ever wanted to do was play guitar,” he told the Current. “I never thought I’d be the subject of an interview... By Enrique Lopetegui 8/28/2013
SAPD Issues Thousands of Tickets for Homelessness

SAPD Issues Thousands of Tickets for Homelessness

News: Data and records obtained by the Current show that between January 1, 2013, and early October of this year the... By Alexa Garcia-Ditta and Elaine Wolff 10/22/2014
Chris Perez, husband of slain Tejana icon Selena, tells of romance, suffering

Chris Perez, husband of slain Tejana icon Selena, tells of romance, suffering

Arts & Culture: In one of the final chapters of his book To Selena, With Love (out March 6), Selena's widower Chris Perez mentions that Abraham Quintanilla, his former father-in-law, once... By Enrique Lopetegui 3/7/2012
5 Awesome Ways to Survive on Ramen

5 Awesome Ways to Survive on Ramen

College Guide 2013: Nearly every college student has lived off of ramen noodles at one point or another. What a lot of them didn’t know was that the classic just-add-water... By Mary Caithn Scott 8/20/2013

Search hundreds of restaurants in our database.

Search hundreds of clubs in our database.

Follow us on Instagram @sacurrent

Print Email

Arts & Culture

SAMA's 'Collects' a treasure trove of lesser-known African-American artists

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Jacob Lawrence, Street Scene, 1937 (detail). From the Harmon and Harriet Kelley Foundation for the Arts.

Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first black athlete to play on a major league team. At the time, black musicians had been playing jazz in clubs from New Orleans to New York for decades, and post-war Europe was offering new opportunities for musical artists of color. But in the visual arts, black artists weren't widely acknowledged by fine art museums until the 1980s, when Jean-Michel Basquiat made the transition from street artist to the avant-garde. He wasn't the first African-American painter with chops. "San Antonio Collects: African American Artists," now on view at SAMA, presents works on loan from local collectors Harriet and Harmon Kelley and Irene and Leo Edwards. The exhibition, curated by SAMA director Katie Luber, rectifies popular assumptions that black artists are newcomers in the American art world by tracing two centuries of art work — from the beginnings of the 1800s to the present.

The Kelley Collection focuses on the early years: from the beginning of the 19th century to the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and '30s. The earliest work in the show, Portrait of a Gentleman, is an 1805 painting by Joshua Johnson. Johnson worked in Baltimore, his patrons were largely abolitionists. Placed next to works from the museum's permanent collection, it seems merely the next in a series of early 1800s portraits: dark, sober, a bit stiff, professional. Other early works on view are by less well-known artists like Nelson Primus and Grafton Tyler Brown, who travelled out west and worked in the landscape tradition. These painters worked for a white clientele and made paintings that blended into the popular tastes of the time. One of the most accomplished was Philadelphia's Henry O. Tanner. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts with Robert Aitken, and went to Paris where he picked up an international style. His Market Place, 1910, a scene from Morocco, is a masterpiece that intimates later developments in abstraction, showing his interests and abilities in early modern painting.

Later works in the show document the heady decade of the '30s, the fruitful exuberance brought on by the Works Projects Administration (WPA) and the Harlem Renaissance. "Nowhere else in the country are you going to see works of art that are this great — great American paintings, by African-American artists," said Luber. Portraits by Norman Lewis and Joseph Delaney show the new sophistication and affluence of the time, while a painting by Jacob Lawrence, Street Scene, 1937 — depicting a black man being pummeled by two figures, one in a hood, while a white woman looks on — is perhaps more naive stylistically, but a masterful work. Other white and black figures complicate the scene, making the social culpability of violence ambiguous.

The Edwards Collection, including photography and other media, picks up in time from the Kelley Collection. A 1929 photograph, The Barefoot Prophet, by James Van Der Zee, shows a bearded figure in an archaic setting including a carved wood chair, candlesticks, and table. Decades latter the Harlem photographer was rediscovered and he took portraits of Basquiat and Bill Cosby in the 1980s and '90s in the same studio with its Victorian appointments intact.

We welcome user discussion on our site, under the following guidelines:

To comment you must first create a profile and sign-in with a verified DISQUS account or social network ID. Sign up here.

Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
comments powered by Disqus