Romare Bearden billboard comes to life at the EpiCentre this Saturday!

“Living billboard” performance to capture Bearden’s music-themed work

 An innovative ad campaign recently recognized in The New York Times continues this weekend with an appearance by three live musicians accompanying Charlotte-born artist Romare Bearden’s colorful music-themed work Back Porch Serenade.

The musicians will appear as a “living billboard” in front of an advertisement featuring Bearden’s work from 1-4 p.m. this Saturday, December 10, near the Enso Asian Bistro & Sushi Bar at the EpiCentre, the entertainment complex at the corner of College and Trade streets in uptown Charlotte. The performance is part of the “EpiCentre Spread the Cheer” holiday event, which begins at 11:30 a.m. and also features an appearance by Santa and a “private snowstorm.”

The “living billboard” follows other appearances by live musicians in front of Bearden’s artworks around Charlotte in October, a campaign conceived by Charlotte advertising agency BooneOakley. “Art can blend in, and sometimes goes unnoticed,” David Oakley, president and co-creative director of BooneOakley, told the Times. “But we’re trying to make it more part of the culture, and more three-dimensional and alive.” The Times highlighted the campaign as one of several around the nation that “bring art and artists to life.”

Saturday’s performance is aimed at promoting a special event, the Mint’s Community Homecoming Weekend coming up on January 7-8, which concludes the Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections exhibition. The FREE two-day event at Mint Museum Uptown includes live music, hands-on art activities and lots of memories. The museum will premiere excerpts from the groundbreaking Romare Bearden Memory Train, a documentary and video collage that celebrates the reflections of the community that inspired Bearden’s work. From now through that weekend, visitors to the exhibition can contribute to the video using kiosks, or the public can email video contributions anytime via smartphone by sending to the email address owuqk7s4zyar@m.youtube.com.

The Mint Museum Unveils New Interactive Video Project Memory Train: Celebrating Community Through the Power of Remembrance

The first video talkback project ever produced by The Mint Museum has now gone live as part of the celebrated Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections exhibition at The Mint Museum Uptown.

The first video talkback project ever produced by The Mint Museum has now gone live as part of the celebrated Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections exhibition at The Mint Museum Uptown.  Memory Train: Celebrating Community Through the Power of Remembrance now allows visitors to share reflections on how their life journeys have been inspired by images of Charlotte native Romare Bearden’s work.

Visitors can record their own stories at the exhibition, on display through January 8, or at home by using their smartphones. Stories are also being collected at a series of community reflection day events at venues around the city. The collected video responses will be combined and edited to create a film that will become part of the community record, and excerpts from the film will premiere at the museum at a special Community Homecoming Weekend on January 8-9.

“The Mint Museum is proud to engage the community in such a vibrant, historic, and relevant project, and to create an exceptional record of our community’s dynamic response to Bearden’s work,” said Dr. Kathleen V. Jameson, President and CEO of The Mint Museum.

“Bearden was a masterful storyteller through collage, and this project encourages people to share their stories about home, childhood, and family. Already we have collected personal reflections at university homecomings, in schools and churches, at festivals, at social and civic meetings, and at cultural programs and events at the museum,” added Cheryl Palmer, Director of Education at the Mint. “The momentum is really building toward the final weekend of Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections. Bearden would be so pleased to see and hear the collage created in honor of his centennial.”

The Memory Train project is tapping into community responses on the themes of migration, memory, home, family, and loss. Memory Train is being supported by a grant of more than $90,000 from the Museums of America, a part of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Community partners working with The Mint include the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, Johnson C. Smith University, and the Levine Museum of the New South.

Visitors to the exhibition are prompted with five questions:

  • Bearden’s art depicts scenes from the past. Describe a memory from your past. What do you see, hear, smell? Are you inside or outside? What colors do you see? Who else is there?
  • Many of Bearden’s works depict happy family memories. What is your favorite happy memory from your family?
  • Think about the first place you remember living as a child. Where was it? What colors and textures do you recall? Think about the furniture, the walls, and the floors. Who lived there with you? Does the building still exist?
  • Bearden’s family moved from the Charlotte to the North when he was a child. Describe a time in your life when you moved to a new place. Why did you move, and how old were you? What did you take with you? What did you have to leave behind?
  • Bearden experienced a sense of loss when he returned to Charlotte as an adult and saw many changes to the city. Have you experienced this kind of feeling when you visited the place where you grew up?
  • To contribute a video via smartphone, members of the public are asked to email a video clip to the address owuqk7s4zyar@m.youtube.com. More information about the project, including clips of video responses that have already been collected, is available at www.beardenmemorytrain.org.

Community reflection day events are scheduled on the following dates:

December 1: 6-7 p.m. at Spirit Square
December 3: 6-9 p.m. at Charlotte Museum of History
December 4: 2-5 p.m. at Mint Museum Randolph

More community reflection days are being scheduled, so check mintmuseum.org for updates. And the museum is preparing for a variety of special events during the Community Homecoming Weekend that coincides with the closing of the Bearden Southern Recollections exhibition.  On January 7 and 8, admission to Mint Museum Uptown will be free, and the museum will remain open until 9 p.m. on January 7. Visitors can enjoy special performances, visual arts demonstrations, and hands-on craft activities, including designing postcards that will travel with the exhibition to its next stops in Florida and New Jersey.  Confirmed performers include a gospel choir; Jazz Arts Initiative performing five of Bearden’s original songs; and the UNC Charlotte Faculty Jazz Ensemble.

Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections featured in The Wall Street Journal, article “Impressionistic Memories”

“Impressionistic Memories”, by David Yezzi

Born a century ago in North Carolina’s Mecklenburg County, the  American painter and collagist Romare Bearden (1911–1988) moved with his  family to New York when he was 3 years old. While many of his most  famous images—including the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “The Block” (1971), depicting a teeming section of Lennox Avenue
in Harlem—focus on scenes of African-American urban life, Bearden never strayed far in his work from the countryside and people he glimpsed as a child in rural North Carolina.

For Bearden’s centennial, the Mint Museum here has mounted a retrospective that brings into sharp focus the artist’s Southern roots—the fields, farmhouses, rituals and trains, which Bearden worked into brightly colored Cubist landscapes and intimate domestic interiors. Subsequent stints in New York, Pittsburgh and St. Martin in the Caribbean all found their way into Bearden’s work. But beginning with his early figurative gouaches of the 1940s, Bearden made it clear in image
after image that, as he put it, he “never left Charlotte, except physically.”

Charlotte’s Mint Museum Launches Major Romare Bearden Retrospective on Centennial of His Birth

National Tour of Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections

CHARLOTTE, NC (July 31, 2011) – This fall The Mint Museum will present Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections,  a major retrospective of one of America’s most preeminent African  American artists and foremost collagists. Opening on the centennial of  the artist’s birth in Charlotte, the city in which he was born, the  exhibition is the first of its kind to examine in depth how the South  served as a source of inspiration throughout Bearden’s career.  Encompassing approximately 100 works of art drawn from The Mint Museum’s  extensive holdings as well as from national public and private  collections, the exhibition will be on view at the Mint Museum Uptown at  Levine Center for the Arts from 2 September 2011 through 8 January 2012  and then travels to the Tampa Museum of Art (28 January through 6 May  2012) and Newark Museum (23 May through 19 August 2012).

Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections is an incredibly compelling retrospective assembled by The Mint Museum  that showcases the immense contribution of America’s most renowned  African American artists and the significance of his Southern heritage  as a source of inspiration, “said Dr. Kathleen V. Jameson, President  & CEO of The Mint Museum. “It is an important and timely  examination of Bearden’s work.”

The exhibition highlights themes  unexplored in prior exhibitions or writings, and surveys fifty years of  the artist’s work including his early abstract paintings and the  influential collages that dominated his later body of work. Among the  large thematic groupings will be selections from the Prevalence of Ritual series,  which includes Bearden’s first revolutionary collages that demonstrate  his ability to transform life into art, revealing abiding rituals and  ceremonies of affirmation. Elements seen in this series are repeated  throughout Bearden’s oeuvre, serving as icons for his  statements about life in America. One such icon is the locomotive, which  not only symbolizes a means of moving from one place/mode of life to  another but also references the Underground Railroad, as well as the  migration of Southern blacks to northern cities in the early twentieth  century.

“Given the long association between Bearden and the  city of Charlotte, the Mint has a special interest in organizing such an  important retrospective,” said Carla Hanzal, exhibition organizer and  Mint Museum curator of contemporary art. “Romare Bearden broke new  ground with his innovative collages and left a powerful legacy to  generations of American artists. As Charlotte’s oldest visual arts  institution, we are proud to have a substantial history of collecting  and presenting works of art by Romare Bearden.”

ABOUT ROMARE BEARDEN: SOUTHERN RECOLLECTIONS
The  exhibition’s loose chronological structure traces such critical themes  in Bearden’s work as music, religion, social change, and family,  particularly informed by an African American experience. The earliest  group of works, from the 1940s, focuses on his memories of the rural  South, painted in tempera on brown paper and characterized by strong  colors, flattened perspective, and stylized, highly formal compositions.  Such works as The Visitation (1941) and Folk Musicians (1942) depict scenes of agrarian life yet also portray universal emotional bonds.

As Bearden developed his iconic collage technique in the mid-1960s, he  made use of a wide range of art practices, both Western and non-Western.  His use of collage, with its distortions, reversals, and surrealistic  blending of styles, enabled Bearden to convey the dreamlike quality of  memory, and was, therefore, a perfect vehicle for recording his memories  of the South. After helping to found an artist’s group in support of  civil rights in 1963, Bearden’s work became more overtly socially  conscious. One of his most famous series, Prevalence of Ritual,  concentrated primarily on his knowledge and experience of African  American life, and the myth, rituals, and socially maintained rites  within communities Collages like Prevalence of Ritual: Tidings (1964) examined the evolving nature of African Americans’ rights. Though  rooted in traditional renderings of the Biblical Annunciation with an  angel greeting a young woman and offering a flower, Bearden’s addition  of symbols, including the train in the background and birds flying  through the sky, perhaps implied a journey towards greater freedom and  equality made possible by the civil rights movement. In Carolina Reunion (1975), the subject matter is emblematic of the longing for a better  life and the comforting familiarity of home embodied in the northern  migration of African Americans from the South during the early part of  the twentieth century.

Bearden returned to Mecklenburg County  in the seventies as his career was beginning to gain momentum. This  Southern homecoming proved bittersweet. Charlotte was undergoing urban  renewal, and already traces of Bearden’s past had been erased. This  nostalgic experience imbued Bearden with a greater sense of urgency to  both celebrate and to eulogize a lost way of life, a theme that would  inform his artwork for the remainder of his career. Drawn to “journeying  things”—trains and birds—his inclusion of these recurring motifs  implied a movement from one way of life to another. Bearden increasingly  used richer colors and more decorative patterns to mediate ideas about  African American community.

A 144-page, fully illustrated  catalogue co-published and distributed by D Giles Limited, London, will  accompany the exhibition. Contributors to the book include:  Mary Lee  Corlett, Jae Emerling, Glenda Gilmore, Leslie King-Hammond, Carla  Hanzal, Myron Schwartzman, and Ruth Fine. Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections has been made possible with generous support from Duke Energy and Wells Fargo. This exhibition has been made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts as part of American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius. In addition, a series of special events and programming are  scheduled to support the exhibit and to highlight Bearden’s centennial  birthday.

ABOUT ROMARE BEARDEN
Born in  Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, Bearden lived in Charlotte until the  age of four. Although his family settled in New York, the artist’s  brief childhood in the South and return visits to Charlotte made a  noteworthy impact on his art. During these visits, Bearden absorbed  stories and observations about the rituals of daily Southern life—the  relentless toil of crop cultivation, women tending gardens and mixing  herbal remedies, fish fries, and other community gatherings, and  religious activities. These experiences, as well as stories passed from  generation to generation left a lasting impression on him.

His life and art are marked by exceptional talent, encompassing a broad  range of intellectual and scholarly interests, including music,  performing arts, history, literature, and world art. Bearden was also a  celebrated humanist, as demonstrated by his longtime support of young,  emerging artists. Bearden began college at Lincoln University,  transferred to Boston University, and completed his studies at New York  University (NYU), graduating with a degree in education. While at NYU,  Bearden took extensive courses in art and was a lead cartoonist and  subsequent art editor for the monthly journal The Medley. He had also been art director of Beanpot,  the student humor magazine of Boston University. Bearden published many  journal covers during his university years and the first of numerous  texts he would write on social and artistic issues. He also attended the  Art Students League in New York and the Sorbonne in Paris. From 1935 –  1937, Bearden was a weekly editorial cartoonist for the Baltimore Afro-American.

After joining the Harlem Artists Guild in 1935, Bearden embarked on his  lifelong study of art, gathering inspiration from Western masters  ranging from Duccio, Giotto, and de Hooch to Cezanne, Picasso, and  Matisse, as well as from African art (particularly sculpture, masks, and  textiles), Byzantine mosaics, Japanese prints, and Chinese landscape  paintings.  From the mid-1930s through the 1960s, Bearden was a social  worker with the New York City Department of Social Services, working on  his art at night and on weekends. His success as an artist was  recognized with his first solo exhibition in Harlem in 1940 and his  first solo show in Washington, D.C., in 1944. Bearden was a prolific  artist whose works were exhibited during his lifetime throughout the  United States and Europe. His collages, watercolors, oils,  photomontages, and prints are imbued with visual metaphors from his past  in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Harlem, and from  a variety of historical, literary, and musical sources. Bearden died in  1988.

The Mint Museum Celebrates Romare Bearden with Major Retrospective

Exhibition brings together 100 works from every stage of artist’s career

This fall, The Mint Museum presents a major retrospective of the work of Romare Bearden (1911-1988), widely regarded as one of
America’s most pre-eminent African American artists and foremost collagists, as well as a noted writer and musician. The exhibition Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections surveys 50 years of the artist’s work, from his early abstract paintings to the influential collages that dominated his later body of work. Opening on the centennial of Bearden’s birth, the exhibition will be on view at the Mint Museum Uptown (at Levine Center for the Arts, 500 South Tryon
Street) from 2 September 2011 – 8 January 2012.

“Romare Bearden broke new ground with his innovative collages and left a powerful legacy to generations of American artists,” said Curator of Contemporary Art and exhibition curator Carla Hanzal. “Given the long association between Bearden and the city of Charlotte, the Mint has a special interest in bringing this important career overview to the public.”

Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections will include approximately 100 works of art drawn from The Mint Museum’s extensive holdings, as well as national public and private collections. This exhibition examines how the South served as a source of inspiration throughout his career, a theme which has not been explored previously. Among the large thematic groupings will be selections from the Prevalence of Ritual series, which includes
many works referring to Bearden’s childhood home in North Carolina.

Born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, Bearden lived there until the age of four. Although his family settled in New York, the artist’s brief childhood in the South and return visits to Charlotte made a noteworthy impact on his art. During these visits, Bearden absorbed stories and observations about the rituals of daily Southern life—the relentless toil of crop cultivation, women tending gardens and mixing herbal remedies, fish fries and other community gatherings, and religious activities. These experiences, which stood in stark contrast to the urban rhythm of his parents’ New York City household, left a lasting impression on him.

The exhibition’s loosely chronological structure traces critical themes in Bearden’s work such as music, religion, social change, and family, particularly informed by an African- American experience. The earliest group of works, from the 1940s, focuses on his memories of the rural South, painted in tempera on brown paper and characterized by strong colors, flattened perspective, and stylized, highly formal compositions. Works such as The Visitation (1941) and
Folk Musicians (1942) depict scenes of agrarian life yet also portray universal emotional bonds.

As Bearden developed his iconic collage technique in the mid-1960s, he made use of a wide ranges of art practices, both Western and non-Western. His use of collage, with its distortions, reversals, and Surrealistic blending of styles, enabled Bearden to convey the dreamlike quality of memory, and was, therefore, a perfect vehicle for recording of his memories of the South. After helping to found an artist’s group in support of civil rights in 1963, Bearden’s work became more overtly socially conscious. One of his most famous series, Prevalence of Ritual, concentrated mostly on southern African American life. Works like Baptism (1964) examined the changing nature of African Americans’ rights. Illustrating the movement of water being poured onto the subject being baptized, Bearden conveyed the temporal flux of society during the civil rights movement. In Carolina Reunion (1975), the subject matter is emblematic of the longing for a better life and the comforting familiarity of home embodied in the northern
migration of African Americans from the South during the early part of the 20th century.

Bearden returned to Mecklenburg County in the 1970s just as his career was beginning to gain momentum. This Southern homecoming proved bittersweet. Charlotte was undergoing urban renewal, and already traces of Bearden’s past had been erased. This nostalgic experience imbued Bearden with a greater sense of urgency to both celebrate and eulogize a lost way of life, a theme that would inform his artwork for the remainder of his days.

During the 1970s, Bearden developed a complex iconography that spoke to these new developments. Drawn to “journeying things”—trains and birds—his inclusion of these
recurring motifs implied a movement from one way of life to another. He increasingly used richer colors and more decorative patterns to mediate ideas about African American community and culture, as in Of the Blues: Carolina Shout (1974), Back Porch Serenade (1977), and
Sunset Limited (Mecklenburg County) (1978).

A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition with contributions by Mary Lee Corlett, Jae Emerling, Glenda Gilmore, and Leslie King-Hammond. The exhibition will tour nationally following its debut at the Mint.

Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections is made possible with generous support from Duke Energy and Wells Fargo. Additional funding is provided by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.