This volume celebrates the historic acquisition by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco of sixty-two paintings, sculptures, drawings, and quilts by twenty-two contemporary African American artists. While these self-taught artists were born in the Jim Crow period of institutionalized racism, their works embody the promise and attainment of freedom in the modern Civil Rights era and address some of the most profound and persistent issues in American society, including race, class, gender, and spirituality. Originally created as expressions of individual identity and communal solidarity, these eloquent objects are powerful testaments to the continuity and survival of the African American culture.
Timothy Anglin Burgard is the Ednah Root Curator in Charge of American Art for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. He is the author or coauthor of sixteen books, including Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years, 1953–1966 (2013); Matter and Spirit: Stephen De Staebler (2011); The Surreal World of Enrico Donati (2007); and Frank Lobdell: Making and Meaning (2003).
Thornton Dial was born in rural Alabama and grew up in the shadow of the Great Depression. His life unfolded in tandem with the challenges of institutionalized segregation and the triumphs of the Civil Rights movement, experiences described in his artistic output. In his large-scale paintings, sculptures, and mixed-media assemblages, Dial channeled a variety of perspectives on the politics and poetry of the African American South.
Lonnie Holley of Birmingham, Alabama, combines recycled materials to create visual stories—often linking the past to the present—that are intended to teach and inspire. He also performs and records experimental music, and his albums Just Before Music (2012) and Keeping a Record of It (2013) were released by Dust-to-Digital Records.
Joe Minter grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. When Civil Rights memorials began to be installed around that city in the late 1980s, he responded by erecting his own tribute to ordinary African American workers—the “foot soldiers” of the Civil Rights movement. Minter’s “African Village in America,” a sculptural installation commemorating four hundred years of African American history through repurposed and re-envisioned materials, is recognized as one of the last great “yard shows” in the American South.
Lauren Palmor is the curatorial assistant in the American Art Department at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. She has held fellowships at the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and has contributed to a number of exhibition catalogues, including Franz von Stuck (2013) and Nicolai Fechin (2013).