On February 1st, I went to the opening of African American Art at the Mennello Museum of American Art, (900 East Princeton Street Orlando, Fl). The exhibit, on loan from the Smithsonian Institute is titled, "African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era and Beyond". The exhibit presents one hundred works dating from the 1920s through the 1990s by forty-three black artists who participated in dialogues about art, identity, and the rights of the individual that engaged American society throughout the twentieth century.
As I sketched, I heard a brief explanation about the installation in the middle of the room. The chair and cabinet were supposed to belong to a world traveler. Objects in the cabinet come from exotic places around the world. A map shows three isolated islands where the traveler stayed. Everything was fictitious. It was a way for the artist to escape everyday life and imagine a life of travel and leisure.
New York City artist Joseph Delaney had a 1941 painting of Penn Station at war time. The painting was bisected horizontally down the middle with the upper half showing the architecture and the bottom half depicting the crowds in motion. Joe Biggers had a large painting called, "Shotgun Third Ward" painted in 1965. A church stood burnt as people gathered in the street. The sun was setting behind the charred rafters. The painting was mostly monochrome except for hints of violent red throughout. It is the most haunting image I have ever seen of the burning of African American Churches during the civil rights era. This happened within my lifetime, so the dark souls capable of that act could very well still be alive.
The show is on exhibit now through April 28th. The museum is open, Tuesday-Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m and Sunday Noon to 4:30 p.m. If you go to the Museum website, there is a coupon you can print for free admission to the exhibit.