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“Solidary and Solitary”
Smart Museum, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Recommendation by Robin Dluzen


Installation view of "Solidary & Solitary," 2019, Smart Museum, University of Chicago, showing works by Sam Gilliam, Charles Gaines, Leonardo Drew, and Melvin Edwards

Continuing through May 19, 2019

Fifteen Black artists, practicing from the 1940s to the present, are featured in “Solidary & Solitary: The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection.” This selection abounds with major works in portraiture, minimalism, abstraction, colorfield painting and conceptualism. The curatorial approach establishes a context in which identity and politics are symbolic, subtle and intricate instead of illustrative or predictable. From Norman Lewis (1909-1979), to Sam Gilliam (b.1933) to Bethany Collins (b.1984), “Solidary & Solitary” highlights a historical trajectory that is varied in voices and united in challenging norms — aesthetically and socially.

In his “Lynch Fragments,” Melvin Edwards simultaneously evokes the violence perpetrated against African Americans as recently as the 1960s through welded objects like railroad spikes and chains. His material ingenuity has passed on to younger artists, like Leonardo Drew, whose assemblages of organic materials address nature and human nature. Likewise, Jennie C. Jones draws upon artists who came before her in “Composition for Sharps,” a series of shining black piano keys arranged upon grey linen grounds. Jones needs no charged representational imagery to get her message across; her simple gesture alone speaks unequivocally about the history of American music, and those who have been systematically removed from it, despite being some of its most profound innovators.

Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago

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