January 9, 2024
3 minute read

Black Artists in America: From Civil Rights to the Bicentennial

Woman with Flowers

Sacramento, Ca., January 9, 2023 — The Crocker Art Museum is pleased to announce Black Artists in America: From Civil Rights to the Bicentennial on view from February 4 through May 19, 2024. Featuring more than 50 works, Black Artists in America illustrates the maturation of the civil rights movement, the growing activism of Black artists throughout the 1960s, and the battle for greater recognition and rights in the early 1970s.  

In the 1960s, Black artists who came of age during World War II and the civil rights era challenged inequities in the art world. They created brilliant and powerful works that celebrated their racial identity, connected with Black audiences, and participated in the struggle for political, economic, and social equality. Organized by the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, Tennessee, Black Artists in America: From Civil Rights to the Bicentennial explores African American art created during the turbulence of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s and includes paintings, sculptures, and works on paper drawn from public and private collections across the country.   

“We are excited to present one of the exhibitions in this Black Artists in America trio of shows,” notes Lial A. Jones, the Crocker Art Museum’s Mort and Marcy Friedman Director & CEO. “This was an incredible period of evolution and revolution in art history and this exhibition does an extraordinary job of showcasing many of the Black artists working at the time.” 

The range of abstract and figurative works on view in Black Artists in America demonstrates that during the revolutionary civil rights and Black Power movements there was not a single reigning style or ideology. Instead, African American artists from both coasts and locations in between worked with every available means to create a new visual language that expressed their own and shared realities.  

Works by Romare Bearden, Marie Johnson Calloway, and Betye Saar from the Crocker’s collection are on loan to the Dixon for the exhibition. At the Crocker, additional works by Sam Gilliam, Doyle Lane, Samella Lewis, and Charles White from the Museum’s collection will be added to the show.  

“This exhibition provides the Crocker with an unparalleled opportunity to present many of the most important artists working throughout the United States during the midcentury,” says Crocker Curator Francesca Wilmott. “Not only did the artists in Black Artists in America create groundbreaking artworks, but their creative pursuits often transcended the canvas. They also worked as teachers, activists, musicians, and writers, indelibly shaping the future of art history.” 

Black Artists in America is the second iteration of a three-part series of exhibitions organized by Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis. The series is curated by Professor Earnestine Jenkins, University of Memphis. The exhibition’s accompanying catalogue is available in the Museum Store and includes essays by Dr. Jenkins, Celeste-Marie Bernier, and Alaina Simone.  

The exhibition opened at the Dixon and was on view from October 22, 2023 through January 14, 2024.