Although Faith Ringgold is best known as the originator of the African-American story quilt revival that began in the 1970s, it is her pointed political paintings of the 1960s that are the focus of “American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s,” on view at the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art from Feb. 2 through May 19, 2012. This is Faith Ringgold’s first solo exhibition in Atlanta since the High Museum presented the nationally-touring exhibition, “Faith Ringgold: A Twenty-Five Year Survey” in 1990.
The Ringgold exhibition is in keeping with the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art’s mission to emphasize art by and about women of the African Diaspora. “This year, the season of the Museum’s 15th anniversary, we have deliberately highlighted works from our permanent collection including Ringgold’s quilt ‘Groovin’ High,’ which is one of the College’s signature works,” said Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, Museum director. “It is a privilege to present a solo exhibition featuring the work of an artist who has salient links to the permanent collection and whose influential efforts and advocacy for women artists made it possible for such a museum to even exist.”
With only a few notable exceptions, Ringgold’s once influential paintings disappeared from view and were omitted from critical, art historical discourse for more than 40 years. Coordinated to coincide with Ringgold’s 80th birthday, the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art exhibition includes approximately 60 works from the landmark series “American People” (1963-1967) and “Black Light” (1967-1971), along with a related mural and political posters. “American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s” was co-curated by Thom Collins, director of the Miami Art Museum, and Tracy Fitzpatrick, curator at the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, SUNY, where the exhibition opened to critical acclaim.
NBAF, presenters of the National Black Arts Festival, will collaborate with the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art as a programming partner to offer a robust schedule of community events as part of the exhibition’s programming initiatives.
“We are very pleased to be a programming partner for the Faith Ringgold exhibition,” said Dr. Collette Hopkins, director of Education and Public Programs at NBAF. “In conjunction with this important exhibition, NBAF will present two events at the Camille Cosby Center at Spelman,” Dr. Hopkins added. “We will present a discussion on collecting African-American art with Halima Taha, author of ‘Collecting African American Art: Works on Paper and Canvas,’ on Sunday, Feb. 19, at 3 p.m. in the Museum. Then on Saturday, March 17, at 1 p.m., we will present a community program featuring Mama Koku, NBAF’s official storyteller. Mama Koku will bring Faith Ringgold’s award-winning children’s book, ‘Tar Beach’ to life. Both events are free and open to the public with pre-registration.”
“American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Painting of the 1960s”
In Faith Ringgold’s words, “American People is about the condition of black and white America and the paradoxes of integration felt by many black Americans.” Her two earliest series, “American People” (1962-1967) and “Black Light” (1967-1969), have not been seen together since they were first exhibited in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In both series, the artist explores the issues that were at the forefront of her experience of racial conflict in the United States. In “Big Black” (1967), from the “Black Light” series, Ringgold celebrates the tonal range of African-American skin by creating several abstracted studies of facial features suggested by African masks. In one of her most compelling works, “Flag for the Moon: Die Nigger” (1969), also from the “Black Light” series, she incorporated the image of the American flag. She once explained to an interviewer: “It would be impossible for me to picture the American flag just as a flag, as if that is the whole story. I need to communicate my relationship with this flag based on my experience as a black woman in America.”
It was through these paintings, posters and murals from the 1960s that Ringgold found her political voice, along with the artistic tools with which to express it.
“More broadly, these works are critical to re-conceptualizing our understanding of artistic production in the 1960s,” said exhibition co-curator Fitzpatrick. “In a period defined by the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, it is incongruous that the art of the period is defined by the rather sterile movements of Pop art and Minimalism, movements that arguably fail to connect with the social and political circumstances of the time. Faith Ringgold’s work offers not only clear perspective on that turbulent moment in the history of our country, but also insight into what it meant to be an African American woman working as an artist at the time.”
EXHIBITION ORGANIZATION AND SUPPORT
“American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s” was curated by Miami Art Museum Director Thom Collins and Neuberger Museum of Art Curator and Purchase College Associate Professor of Art History Tracy Fitzpatrick with students from the Purchase College, SUNY, spring 2010 Art History Exhibition Seminar. Exhibition support has been provided by Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and the JPMorgan Chase Foundation.
The Spelman College Museum of Fine Art’s presentation of “American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s” is made possible by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners under the guidance of Fulton County Arts and Culture.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012, 6.30 p.m.
Collecting African American Art Presented by Halima Taha
Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Dr. Halima Taha, an appraiser, art advisor, educator, speaker and author of the bestselling book “Collecting African American Art: Works on Paper and Canvas” has been an authority on collecting African-American art for more than 20 years. Future collectors, knowledgeable arts enthusiasts, and connoisseurs alike will enjoy this event. To pre-register visit http://nbaf.org/schedule/. Presented in partnership with NBAF.
Saturday, March 17, 2012, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Master storyteller and children’s writer Donna Kokumo Buie, best known as “Mama Koku,” will perform Faith Ringgold’s book “Tar Beach,” which won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award in 1991. Children of all ages are invited to participate in this interactive reading. To pre-register visit http://nbaf.org/schedule/. Presented in partnership with NBAF.
Artist Lecture with Faith Ringgold
Faith Ringgold: More than 60 Years Making Art
Thursday, March 22, 2012, 6:30 p.m.
A book signing and reception follow. Presented in partnership with the Spelman College Department of Art and Art History and the Spelman College Women’s Research and Resource Center.
All events are free and open to the public.
TO SCHEDULE A GROUP TOUR
To schedule group tours of “American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s,” please call 404-270-5606.
INTERACT WITH THE MUSEUM
To learn more about the exhibition “American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s,” please visit spelmanmuseum.org. To interact with the Museum and its community and receive the latest Museum news, follow the Museum on facebook.com/spelmanmuseum, and twitter.com/spelmanmuseum. Once you arrive at the Museum, please check in at foursquare.
The Spelman College Museum of Fine Art is located in the Atlanta University Center on the Spelman College campus in the Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Academic Center at 350 Spelman Lane.
For those using GPS navigations systems, the following address will bring you directly to the entrance of Spelman College: 440 Westview Drive, S.W. Atlanta, GA 30310.
The Museum is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. The Museum is closed Sundays, Mondays, major holidays and official College breaks. For more information on the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, visit www.spelmanmuseum.org.
ABOUT FAITH RINGGOLD
Faith Ringgold is a Harlem born artist, today best known for her painted story quilts ─ art that combines painting, quilted fabric and storytelling. She has exhibited in major museums in the USA, Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Additionally, she is in the permanent collection of many museums including the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Museum of Modern Art. Her first book, “Tar Beach,” was a Caldecott Honor Book and winner of the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration, among numerous other honors. She has written and illustrated 11 children’s books. Ringgold has received more than 75 awards, fellowships, citations and honors, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Fellowship for painting, two National Endowment for the Arts Awards and 17 honorary doctorates, one of which is from her alma mater The City College of New York. Most recently, Ringgold’s work was illuminated globally by Google, as the artist and author created an original Doodle in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The picture replaced the search engine’s official logo on its homepage and represented King’s calls for brotherhood and equality.
ABOUT THE SPELMAN COLLEGE MUSEUM OF FINE ART
The Spelman College Museum of Fine Art provides a learning environment for students, faculty, staff and alumnae. Museum activities enhance the cultural and intellectual development of the College's community through the collection, preservation, exhibition and interpretation of important works of art. Artists affiliated with the Atlanta University Center are of particular interest. As the only museum in the nation that focuses on works by and about women of the African Diaspora in its collections, exhibitions and programs, the Museum serves as a complement to local, regional, national and international art resources.
ABOUT SPELMAN COLLEGE
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a prestigious, highly selective, liberal arts college that prepares women to change the world. Located in Atlanta, Ga., this historically black college boasts an 83 percent graduation rate, and outstanding alumnae such as Children's Defense Fund Founder Marian Wright Edelman; former U.S. Foreign Service Director General Ruth Davis; authors Tina McElroy Ansa and Pearl Cleage; and actress LaTanya Richardson. More than 85 percent of the full-time faculty members have Ph.D.s or other terminal degrees, and the average faculty to student ratio is 11:1. Approximately 2,100 students attend Spelman. Spelman College has been ranked as the number one HBCU for five consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report; number 62 among Best Liberal Arts Colleges by U.S. News & World Report; and 12th for Best Career Services by The Princeton Review. For more information, visit: www.spelman.edu.
NBAF (National Black Arts Festival) is one of the premier national and international presenters of the art, music and culture of people of African descent. The mission of NBAF is to engage, cultivate and educate diverse audiences about the arts and culture of the African Diaspora and provide opportunities for artistic and creative expression. NBAF produces year-round education and public programming, as well as events presented in collaboration with our partners, in addition to the annual summer festival.
NBAF presents artists from the African Diaspora in all arts disciplines and presentation formats. NBAF hosts more than 300,000 patrons each year and serves more than 25,000 children through the Children’s Education Village, the Coretta Scott King Awards Book Fair and many other school-based programs. Each year NBAF generates major sources of economic impact to the areas served by NBAF including Atlanta, Fulton County and the State of Georgia. NBAF is truly a national treasure and has been recognized by the United States Congress and many other national and international arts organizations.