Tag Archives: African-American art

The Art of Romare Bearden

Laurie says:


Romare Bearden is clearly an artist whose remarkable work I wish I had been been familiar with long ago. But I only recently became aware of it. On the other hand, it is a joy to discover unfamiliar work that is this impressive.

He worked over along period of time in many mediums but his collage work is what I am going to discuss here. Because of my work in progress Memory Landscapes I am especially interested in collage.


Text is from The Art Story

A prominent American artist, Romare Bearden created dazzling work celebrating the black American experience, which he integrated into greater (predominantly white) American modernism. After working several decades as a painter, during the politically tumultuous 1960s Bearden found his own voice by creating collages made of cut and torn photographs found in popular magazines that he then reassembled into visually powerful statements on African-American life. The artist’s subject matter encompassed the urban milieu of Harlem, traveling trains, migrants, spiritual “conjure” women, the rural South, jazz, and blues musicians, and African-American religion and spirituality. Late in his life, the artist established The Romare Bearden Foundation to aid in the education and training of talented art students. Bearden remains revered as a highly esteemed artist of the 20th century.



Although influenced by high modernists such as Henri Matisse, Bearden’s collages also derived from African-American slave crafts such as patchwork quilts and the necessity of making artwork from whatever materials were available. This turn to quotidian materials helped break the divide between the fine and popular arts, enabling a greater number of cultures and people to participate in the creation of arts.

Through his culling of images from mainstream pictorial magazines such as Look and Life, and black magazines such as Ebony and Jet, Bearden inserted the African-American experience, its rich visual and musical production, and its contemporary racial strife and triumphs into his collages, thus expressing his belief in the connections between art and social reality.

Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso introduced collage into the modernist vocabulary. In it, Bearden located a methodology that allowed him to incorporate much of his life experience as an African American, from the rural South to the urban North and to Paris, into his work.



I work most often in intimately sized images in my photography. In Memory Landscapes I am aesthetically playing with size and the way the perception of different images changes in that context.  So I found this information from his foundation especially important.  And of course I share “his belief in the connections between art and social reality.”

What gave these collages special power was their size. Originally they were no larger than 14 by 18 inches, but striving for monumentality, Bearden had them photographed and blown up to large black and white sheets, which he named ‘Projections.’ Their size was typically six by eight feet or four by five feet. . . Reviewers hailed them as ‘startling,’ ’emphatic,’ ‘moving,’ ‘memorable’ and ‘propagandistic in the best sense.’

In terms of my own work I am interested in the both in the their small size and the use of “ collages made of cut and torn photographs found in popular magazines” as his basic material. Since in a different way and context, I am using historical and contemporary images in Memory Landscapes. Images can be extremely powerful in any size.

Go to the the Romare Bearden Foundation web site under “Art” in the menu, to see the extensive range of his work. He did remarkable and diverse work from the 30’s into the 80’s.

Norm “Nomzee” Maxwell: Great Paintings

Laurie says:

No life is precious unless all life is precious (Trayvon Martin)

I saw this exhibition a few days ago in the Luna Rienne in my neighborhood at Luna Rienne . It’s called “Made in the Ghetto”. It’s been a long time since I saw unfamiliar work that moved me this much. The pictures are mostly paintings and of some size. Seeing them on the screen will not do more then give an impression of the work. The textures and contrasts in the art are extraordinarily vivid and complex and need to be seen in the originals. Unfortunately I saw the show almost at the end. It’s been extended thru this Saturday. If you can see it in the Mission in San Francisco in this short time do. There’s an excellent selection of his work and also a video on the Luna Rienne site that gives a fuller perspective on the work.


After having a varied and successful career in multiple fields and mediums. he opened his own gallery in LA. He sold and exhibited his work worldwide.

Norm Maxwell: Made In The Ghetto (1969-2016) honors the life and body of work of the recently-deceased urban contemporary artist and long-time Luna Rienne Gallery collaborator.

Born in Philadelphia, PA on January 25, 1969, Maxwell and his two brothers had a rough upbringing in a broken home. He was fully susceptible to and influenced by street life, finding his expression in writing graffiti as “Ice”. His mother’s artistic inclinations, frequent visits to the Philadelphia Museum Of Art, and encouragement from teachers led him to pursue an academic degree in art…


Maxwell was a prolific artist whose skills and subject matter spanned the extremes of painting. From acrylic spray to oil brush, street life to ancient myth, and urban strife to family life, Maxwell addressed both the evil and beauty of humanity – a duality that he personally struggled with during his short and magnificent life. He is survived by his wife and two children.


Norm “Nomzee” Maxwell was a visual artist whose education came via the streets (Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Los Angeles) and the Hussian School Of Art. His combination of urban upbringing and fine art training resulted stylistically in an esoteric combination of color, light, and subject matter. Culturally, Maxwell was a quintessential urban contemporary artist, with a portfolio that included graffiti, street wear design, club flyer and album art, graphic design, set design, and fine art painting. He passed away in 2016 at the age of 47.

I’m going to go back again to see the work. There is so much there it requires multiple viewings.