Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FEELING ART'S PULL; 'African American Masters' Exhibit at Cummer Draws You In

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FEELING ART'S PULL; 'African American Masters' Exhibit at Cummer Draws You In

Article excerpt

Byline: Tanya Perez-Brennan, Times-Union staff writer

The thing that stands out at the "African American Masters" exhibit at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is the sheer feeling of life that emanates from the paintings, the sculptures and the photographs.

This is the power of art.

You will feel that power as you walk through the two galleries where the exhibit is on display. There are depictions of political struggle, love and everyday scenes. Even in something as simple as a couple sitting together in a cafe, there is a quiet dignity of presence, of the existence of a people up against a greater "invisible" identity in a society riddled by racism.

One of the most remarkable artists featured is William H. Johnson. His Going to Church (1941-'42) uses bright colors to depict the weekly routine of attending church with the family. But Johnson also branches out from themes specific to the African-American experience in Midnight Sun (1937), painted while in Norway. The Expressionist-influenced broad strokes and bright colors reveal an orange and red sky. Johnson proves his technique again with Village Houses (1928), during a stint in the French Riviera. The painting shows a small street surrounded by buildings that seem to gyrate in a surrealistic dance.

Other gems to look out for include Romare Beardon's Empress of the Blues (1974), an homage to diva Bessie Smith. The painting depicts a smoky club scene with a colorful blue and red background stitched together by collage. Jacob Lawrence's The Library (1960) is striking for its colorful, flattened palette of a congregation of book lovers immersed in quiet thought.

And then there are the political works that portray the reality of the day, some old, some more recent. Take the rage emanating from Thorton Dial Sr.'s Top of the Line, a depiction of the 1992 L. …

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