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"Black American Portraits" travels to Spelman College Museum of Fine Art Featuring New Acquisitions, Including a New Work by Calida Rawles Share a Spelman College Press Release

Following its debut at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in 2021, the group exhibition "Black American Portraits" travels to Atlanta’s Spelman College Museum of Fine Art. Co-curated by Spelman College Museum of Fine Art’s Executive Director, Liz Andrews, and Tate’s Britton Family Curator-at-Large, Christine Y. Kim (both formerly of LACMA), the exhibition reframes portraiture to center Black American subjects, sitters and spaces – this time placing Black women portrait artists center stage. The exhibition will run from Feb. 8 through June 30, and will be welcomed to Spelman by way of a special opening reception on Friday, Feb. 10, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

New to the exhibition at Spelman College Museum of Fine Art will be four acquisitions: a new painting by Calida Rawles – who will celebrate her 25th anniversary as a Spelman College alumna in 2023, two works by Augusta Savage and a photograph of Spelman Alumna Stacey Abrams by Sheila Pree Bright.

Spanning over two centuries from c.1800 to the present day, the exhibition will feature 120 works to chronicle the ways in which Black Americans have used portraiture to envision themselves in their own eyes. Countering a visual culture that often demonizes Blackness and fetishizes the spectacle of Black pain, these images center love, abundance, family, community and exuberance. "Black American Portraits" depicts Black figures in a range of mediums such as painting, drawing, prints, photography, sculpture, mixed media and time-based media. In addition to work by artists of African descent, "Black American Portraits" includes several works by artists of other backgrounds who have exemplified a thoughtfulness about, sensitivity toward and commitment to Black artists, communities, histories and subjects.

The opening "Black American Portraits" at Spelman will coincide with the release of a book by the same title from LACMA and Delmonico books. Spanning over two centuries from around 1800 to the present day, the Black American Portraits book chronicles the ways in which Black Americans have used portraiture to envision themselves in their own eyes. Remembering "Two Centuries of Black American Art," curated by David C. Driskell at LACMA over 45 years ago, this book is a companion to the exhibition and reframes portraiture to center Black American subjects, sitters and spaces. This selection of approximately 140 works from LACMA’s permanent collection highlights emancipation, scenes from the Harlem Renaissance, portraits from the Civil Rights and Black Power eras, multiculturalism of the 1990s and the spirit of Black Lives Matter. The book is edited with text by Christine Y. Kim and Myrtle Elizabeth (Liz) Andrews, forewords by Mary Schmidt Campbell and Michael Govan, texts by Hilton Als, Bridget R. Cooks, Ilene Susan Fort, Dhyandra Lawson, Jeffrey C. Stewart and an afterword by Naima J. Keith. The publication was designed by Adraint Khadafhi Bereal.

The Spelman Museum presentation of "Black American Portraits" will include a slate of public programs including "Black American Portraits": A Symposium on March 2-3, 2023. Speakers at the symposium include Amy Sherald, Calida Rawles, Bisa Butler and Deborah Willis.

About Spelman College Museum of Fine Art
The Spelman College Museum of Fine Art is the only museum in the nation dedicated to art by and about women of the African diaspora. The museum is located on the campus of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia on the first floor of the Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby, Ed.D., Academic Center. Initial plans for the Museum were spearheaded by arts faculty who believed that visual art is an essential component of a liberal arts education and that it plays a significant role in encouraging intellectual growth and it has served as a vital resource for the Spelman community and the Atlanta University Center since it opened in 1996. The Spelman Museum is an internationally respected nexus for excellent exhibitions and programs, and has a renewed commitment to growing and exhibiting the permanent collection of art.

To learn more, please visit or @spelmanmuseum on social media.

About Spelman College
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a leading liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the College’s picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Spelman is the country's leading producer of Black women who complete Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The College’s status is confirmed by the U.S. News & World Report, which ranked Spelman No. 51 among all liberal arts colleges, No. 19 for undergraduate teaching, No. 5 for social mobility among liberal arts colleges, and No. 1 for the 16th year among historically Black colleges and universities. The Wall Street Journal has ranked the College No. 3, nationally, in terms of student satisfaction. Recent initiatives include a designation by the Department of Defense as a Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM, a Gender and Sexuality Studies Institute, the first endowed queer studies chair at an HBCU, and a program to increase the number of Black women Ph.D.s in economics. New majors have been added, including documentary filmmaking and photography, and collaborations have been established with MIT’s Media Lab, the Broad Institute and the Army Research Lab for artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Rosalind Brewer, political leader Stacey Abrams, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna president Audrey Forbes Manley, actress and producer Latanya Richardson Jackson, global bioinformatics geneticist Janina Jeff and authors Pearl Cleage and Tayari Jones.

To learn more, please visit and @spelmancollege on social media.



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