January 10, 2022 | For immediate release
Kira Houston, Outreach Coordinator
828.350.8484 | email@example.com
adVANCE! Modernism, Black Liberation + Black Mountain College
Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center
Asheville, NC | February 11 – May 14, 2022
Featuring the work of contemporary sculptor Larry Paul King in conversation with Black Mountain College modernist masters including Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence. adVANCE! celebrates Black Mountain College’s role in early civil rights and the ongoing role of Black, modernist artists in the pursuit of liberation and justice.
Curator Statement, Marie T. Cochran:
Historians of American art once assumed that African American artists passively accepted the guidance of the masters of modernism and made derivative work as a result. This model, which relies on the societal construct of race, presumes that the European tradition is the subject and African Americans are the object on which it acts. Modernism and abstraction have always been liberating aesthetics for Black artists. Rooted in the modernism of celebrated Black Mountain College instructor Jacob Lawrence, and his colleagues and students, adVANCE! bridges the past and future by celebrating the deeply rooted influence of African aesthetic practices on Western modernism as well as the inherent progressive ideals which flourished from this lineage and persist in our region.
The city of Asheville is undergoing a transformation that can be seen throughout Appalachia. In 2021, following calls for justice after the murder of George Floyd and ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, The Vance Monument (named for Confederate military officer and NC Governor Zebulon Baird Vance) was dismantled from the city center – only a few hundred feet from the entrance of BMCM+AC. These advancements toward social justice resonate through the history of our region. Such actions were foundational to BMC, which hosted the Southern Conference for Human Welfare in 1944, the same year it invited Alma Stone Williams to integrate its student body, and welcomed the Congress of Racial Equality in 1947. It is crucial to acknowledge that BMC’s actions follow in the footsteps of a wide range of Black luminaries including Dr. Carter G. Woodson, “the Father of Black History Celebration,” and James A. Porter, educator and art historian, all of whom took our nation’s democratic ideals from theory into practice. Writing on Jacob Lawrence Porter states, “His art is founded in reality. It includes the vivid moments of actual experience.” (Modern Negro Art, 1943)
As Appalachia moves forward with the hindsight of history, Asheville artists continue to embrace a distinct Black aesthetic of liberation as an antidote to the systemic erasure and misrepresentation of the cultural legacy of people of African descent: Designer Reggie Tidwell commemorates Asheville’s protests and calls for justice undertaken in 2020 during the Summer of Racial Reckoning; sculptor Larry Paul King presents a path forward by embracing abstraction, natural forms, and materials. The work of these artists are what Lawrence may call Humanist: “to be human, to think, to analyze, and to probe. To respond and to be stimulated by all living things.”
Black is everything!
With thanks to the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center Board of Directors; Hedy Fischer and Randy Shull; Dr. Dwight Mullen and Dr. Dolly Jenkins-Mullen; Blue Spiral 1 and Casey Engel; Sue Wilson; the scholarship of John P. Bowles and Julie Levin Caro.