Art and Identity: Highlights from the Collections of the Hudson River Museum and Art Bridges

October 12, 2018–August 4, 2019

The Hudson River Museum is honored to begin a partnership with Art Bridges, a foundation founded by arts patron Alice Walton to facilitate the sharing of outstanding works of American art and support partner institutions in expanding and deepening their connection with audiences.

Beginning this fall, and in partnership with Art Bridges, the Hudson River Museum will debut three loaned paintings in the Collections Gallery: David Clyde Driskell, Woman with Flowers, 1972; Barkley L. Hendricks, Brenda P, 1974; and Kerry James Marshall, Lost Boys: AKA BB, 1993. These artists have played significant roles in American Art from the late 20th century to today with paintings that are visually compelling at the same time that they offer meaningful commentary on African American experiences. Their paintings, and the Museum’s works of art chosen for this installation, make powerful statements and invite discussion about identity. Some are portraits of specific people, others biblical or allegorical figures.

All of these artists made choices about style, identity and relationships, regarding their subjects, the figures’ surroundings, and the intended impact of their art. John White Alexander, whose painting Azalea, 1885, features a portrait of Helen Abbe Howson gazing at flowers, hangs next to David Driskell’s Woman with Flowers, 1972, her eyes closed in a similar deep meditation.  Alexander pushes these elements to the edges of the canvas, Driskell makes the figure and her flowers a major center point to a cross motif. Barkley L. Hendricks’ monumental portrait from 1974 of Brenda P, the lead singer of a popular Philadelphia R&B group, hangs next to the Museum’s Eve Disconsolate, 1871, a marble statue by Hiram Powers. Both works draw on established Classical precedents to a different end, representing femininity in ancient and contemporary contexts.

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Kerry James Marshall and sculptor Isidore Konti both address themes of loss within their own time periods. Marshall’s Lost Boys: AKA BB, 1993, comes from a series of paintings partly inspired by J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. As the artist once stated, “I apply that concept of being lost in a Never, Never Land to a lot of young black men.” He portrays adolescents convicted and jailed, denied the opportunity to grow up by being lost in a system of institutional racism, with adult lives cut short through violence. In his small plaster figure group Consolation, 1914–1918, Konti speaks to the disillusionment brought on by the First World War and envisions an allegorical mother to comfort humanity. Konti, an Austrian immigrant, would have been following news of the escalating bloodshed with a very personal fear for family and friends left behind.

We invite everyone to discover personal and community connections through these works of art, and to look at portraiture and other figural art in new ways. 

Kerry James Marshall (American, b. 1955). Lost Boys: AKA BB, 1993. Acrylic and collage on canvas. On loan from Art Bridges. © Kerry James Marshall. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.