Hudson River Museum Presents African American Art in the 20th Century

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YONKERS, NY, September 3, 2021 — Hudson River Museum is proud to present African American Art in the 20th Century, an exhibition of exemplary paintings and sculptures by thirty-four African American artists who came to prominence during the period bracketed by the Harlem Renaissance starting in the 1920s and the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Drawn from the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the exhibition includes masterworks by iconic artists such as Romare Bearden, Frederick Brown, Beauford Delaney, Jacob Lawrence, and Loïs Mailou Jones, ranging in style from modern abstraction to stained color to the postmodern assemblage of found objects. The exhibition will be on view October 15, 2021–January 16, 2022; this will be the only New York venue for the exhibition.

The subject matter of the works are diverse. Benny Andrews, Ellis Wilson, and William H. Johnson speak to the dignity and resilience of people who work the land. Jacob Lawrence and Thornton Dial, Sr. acknowledge the struggle for economic and civil rights. Sargent Johnson, Loïs Mailou Jones, and Melvin Edwards address the heritage of Africa, and images by Romare Bearden celebrate jazz musicians. Sam Gilliam and Felrath Hines conduct innovative experiments with color and form.

“It is an absolute honor to have these outstanding paintings and sculptures at the Hudson River Museum,” said Director and CEO Masha Turchinsky. “We are thrilled to introduce our audiences to one of the most significant national collections of African American art. This is a pivotal opportunity for the public to experience powerful works by these American luminaries at the exhibition’s only New York venue.”

Laura Vookles, Chair of the HRM’s Curatorial Department, added, “I can’t wait to see the exhibition galleries filled with these amazing works by such a large grouping of exceptional and influential artists. It has been a privilege to collaborate with my colleagues to plan the presentation here, and I believe people will find visiting the exhibition similarly meaningful.”

These artists worked at significant social and political moments in American life. The Harlem Renaissance, World War II, the Civil Rights movement, and the forces for freedom around the world shaped their lives and worldviews. Family and personal history became subtexts for some. Others interpreted the syncopations of jazz in visual form, still others translated observation into powerful emotional statements. In styles that range from painterly expressionism to abstractions that glow with color, they explore myth and memory and acknowledge the heritage of Africa.

The words of scholar, writer, and political activist W.E.B. Du Bois, Howard University philosophy professor Alain Locke, author Zora Neale Hurston, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and their contemporaries provided insight and inspiration. In response, the artists affirm community and individuality. For them art is a vehicle for understanding the complex, conflicting, and sustaining facets of the American experience. As featured artist Jacob Lawrence stated in 1951, “My pictures express my life and experience… the things I have experienced extend to my national, racial, and class group. I paint the American scene.”

The full list of artists in the exhibition: Benny Andrews, Romare Bearden, Frederick Brown, Hilda Wilkinson Brown, Claude Clark, Eldzier Cortor, Allan Rohan Crite, Emilio Cruz, Beauford Delaney, Joseph Delaney, Thornton Dial, Sr., Melvin Edwards, Herbert Gentry, Sam Gilliam, Palmer Hayden, Felrath Hines, Richard Hunt, Malvin Gray Johnson, Sargent Johnson, William H. Johnson, Loïs Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, Hughie Lee-Smith, Norman Lewis, Whitfield Lovell, Keith Morrison, Delilah Pierce, Charles Searles, Renée Stout, Bob Thompson, Ellis Wilson, Hale Woodruff, Kenneth Victor Young, and Purvis Young.

#HRMAfricanAmericanArt #TwentiethCenturyArtists #AmericanArtists

African American Art in the 20th Century is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The C.F. Foundation in Atlanta supports the museum’s traveling exhibition program, Treasures to Go. The William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment Fund provided financial support.

At the Hudson River Museum, this exhibition is supported by the City of Yonkers, Mayor Mike Spano. Additional support is provided by The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, Tom and Terry D’Auria, and Bevy Smith.

Exhibitions are made possible by assistance provided by the County of Westchester.

Programs are supported in part by Debra A. Blair, Yolanda F. Johnson, Reginald Joseph, Nancy Montag, and Kathryn B Welch.

Exhibition Catalog
The related catalog, African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond, celebrates modern and contemporary artworks in the Smithsonian American Art Museum collection by African American artists. The book, co-published with Skira Rizzoli in New York, is written by Richard J. Powell, the John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art and Art History at Duke University; and Virginia Mecklenburg, chief curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum; with contributions from Maricia Battle, curator in the prints and drawings division at the Library of Congress. It will be available in the Museum Shop ($39.95 for softcover).

Jamel Robinson: Beauty from Ashes
Jamel Robinson, the Hudson River Museum’s Fall 2021 Teaching Artist-in-Residence, is a painter, sculptor, writer, and performance artist. Robinson began his artistic journey as a poet and taught himself to paint to further his range of expression. Over the past ten years, he has evolved an individual style of abstraction, and in 2018, he began applying the paint directly with his hands and manipulating it with squeegees. He states:

“Working predominantly on the floor, in a bent position of surrender, the paintings are a way I have processed personal struggles, but are also an area of openness and discovery. The process is physical. While the majority of works in this series are abstract, it’s impossible to ignore the presence of the body, my body, and the intended viewer.”

In conjunction with the residency, Jamel Robinson: Beauty from Ashes will be on view October 15, 2021–January 16, 2022 and consist of five works, including a mixed-media created specifically for the exhibition. Robinson’s new piece is inspired by sculptures by Melvin Edwards, Richard Hunt, and Sargent Johnson, a mixed media piece by Whitfield Lovell, and an installation by Renée Stout, all of which are on view in African American Art in the 20th Century. The work will be constructed of selected materials connected to slavery, civil rights, and police brutality to forge a complex work of art that evokes the ashes and beauty of the Black Experience in America. Three works will be installed in the Museum’s lobby, while two paintings will be exhibited in Glenview, the HRM’s 1877 home on the National Register of Historic Places.

For Robinson, the concept of beauty emerging from ashes “holds true to the Black experience with the historical and present day ashes served to us in America, to my personal experience of navigating life’s challenges, and to the extended universal view of everyone’s ability to use circumstance as a platform of expression.”

Jamel Robinson was born in Harlem, New York, where he still lives and works. His work has been featured in several solo gallery exhibitions, most recently at the Established Gallery and the Ivy Brown Gallery in New York and the Gallery Von Schmordenfaden in Copenhagen, Denmark. In 2018, his work was featured in 100 Works, curated by Derrick Adams, OshunLayne, Larry Ossei-Mensah, Teriha Yaegashi, Stephanie Cunningham, Gabriel de Guzman, and Becky Elmquist and presented by ARTNOIR, LatchKey Gallery, and E+. His work is currently on view in a group exhibition at The Meeting Point, a pop-up gallery curated by Danny Baez in collaboration with ARTNOIR, REGULARNORMAL and The Meatpacking District. His work will also be included in The Eyes Have It at the Lehman College Art Gallery from August 31–November 13, 2021. Beauty from Ashes is his first museum exhibition.

#JamelRobinson #BeautyFromAshes

Related Programs
The exhibition will be accompanied by a rich array of interdisciplinary programs, including public discussions, music, spoken word performances, and studio workshops. All programs are onsite unless otherwise noted. A selection of these programs include:

Curator Tour of African American Art in the 20th Century
Sunday, October 17, 1pm
Delve into the works on view in African American Art in the 20th Century with Laura Vookles, Chair of the Curatorial Department. Explore masterpieces by thirty-four iconic African American artists from the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum spanning the decades that encompass such important historical events as the Harlem Renaissance, the Great Migration, World War II, and the Civil Rights movement.

Yonkers Arts Weekend
Saturday, October 23, 12–5pm
Enjoy free admission to the Hudson River Museum’s galleries and take part in Family Studio Art workshops and family-friendly activities in the HRM Courtyard including making giant bubbles, learning to spin a hula hoop, and trying your skill at cornhole. Explore the African American Art in the 20th Century exhibition through books about the Great Migration, Harlem Renaissance, and Civil Rights era in our reading nook.

Poetry Reading and Responsive Writing
Sunday, October 24, 1–3pm
Teaching Artist-in-Residence Jamel Robinson is a painter, sculptor, writer, and performance artist who began his artistic journey as a poet and taught himself to paint to further his range of expression. Join him in the galleries for a reading of his poem HOME, followed by a creative writing workshop in which he guides participants to pen their own poems in response to chosen works in African American Art in the 20th Century.

Landscape Looking and Making Series
November & December
This special series links two HRM exhibitions, African American Art in the 20th Century and Landscape Art & Virtual Travel through the sensibility and practice of contemporary African American artists. Join the artist in the galleries for a conversation sparked by the comparison and contrast of two landscapes, one in each exhibit, to contextualize and make connections between them. Then, the artist will lead a workshop in which you’ll create your own landscape work of art inspired by this close observation and discussion.

Saturday, November 6, 1–3pm
Donna Chambers, jewelry designer, artist, and quilter, leads a workshop in fabric collage that draws on the vast potential of the textile arts.

Sunday, November 21, 1–3pm
Jamel Robinson, Teaching Artist-in-Residence, leads a drawing and painting workshop. You’ll also have the opportunity to contribute elements to a collaborative work-in-progress inspired by the theme of his exhibition Beauty from Ashes!

Sunday, December 4, 1–3pm
Tijay Mohammed, multimedia artist and 2020 HRM Teaching Artist-in-Residence leads a workshop in paper collage, informed by his recent murals of landscapes spied outside the window.

Multisensory Music, Movement, and Sculpture
Sunday, December 12, 1–3pm

Enjoy a musical performance in the galleries by Teaching Artist-in-Residence Jamel Robinson, inspired by the works on view in African American Art in the 20th Century. In the workshop, explore the emotions elicited by hearing the music in the context of the artworks. How would you move in response? Robinson will guide you in translating these visceral reactions into a sculptural response modeled in clay.

Studio Tour and Demonstration with Jamel Robinson (Virtual)
Wednesday, January 12, 7pm
Take a rare peek behind the scenes at the studio of Teaching Artist-in-Residence Jamel Robinson and learn about his multi-layered practice. Following a tour of multimedia work created over the course of his career and the stories behind them, Robinson will demonstrate his artistic process in a work-in-progress. Followed by Q&A with the artist.

Workshops for Families
Explore the artwork of Teaching Artist-in-Residence Jamel Robinson in these creative hands-on activities for families, ideal for children ages 5–10, facilitated by Junior Docents every weekend from 1–4pm in the Joyce Greene Education Center. Check the website for monthly themes and projects.

Press contact:
Samantha Hoover
(914) 963-4550 x216

Image: Frederick Brown, John Henry, 1979, oil on canvas. Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of Gerald L. Pearson. © 2021 Frederick J. Brown Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.


Hudson River Museum is a preeminent cultural institution in Westchester County and the New York metropolitan area. Situated on the banks of the Hudson River in Yonkers, New York, the HRM’s mission is to engage, inspire, and connect diverse communities through the power of the arts, sciences, and history.

The Museum offers engaging experiences for every age and interest, with an ever-growing collection of American art; dynamic exhibitions that range from notable nineteenth-century paintings to contemporary art installations; Glenview, an 1877 house on the National Register of Historic Places; a state-of-the-art Planetarium; an environmental teaching gallery; and an outdoor Amphitheater. Accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM), the Museum is dedicated to collecting, preserving, exhibiting, and interpreting these multidisciplinary offerings, which are complemented by an array of public programs that encourage creative expression, collaboration, and artistic and scientific discovery.

Hours and Admission: Hudson River Museum is open Thursday–Sunday, 12–5pm. Advanced tickets recommended. We follow NYS and CDC protocols for a safe and enjoyable visit. Learn more about our protocols and precautions and purchase tickets at

General Admission: Adults $8; Youth (3–18) $4; Seniors (62+) $5; Students (with valid ID) $5; Veterans $5; Children (under 3) FREE; Members FREE. Planetarium tickets: Adults $5; Youth (3–18) $3; Seniors (62+) $4; Students (with valid ID) $4; Veterans $4; Children (under 3) Free. Glenview Tour tickets: Adults $5; Youth (3–18) $3; Seniors (62+) $4; Students (with valid ID) $4; Veterans $4; Children (under 3) Free. The Museum is accessible by Metro-North (Hudson Line—Yonkers and Glenview stations), by Bee-Line Bus Route #1, by car, and by bike. Make your visit a One-Day Getaway, and buy a combined rail and admission discount ticket. Learn more about Metro-North Deals & Getaways.