Seeing What’s Always Been There

Dear Friends of the HRM,

“Black art has always existed. It just hasn’t been looked for in the right places.” These words belong to the legendary Romare Bearden, whose life and art were marked by exceptional talent, encompassing a broad range of intellectual and scholarly interests, including music, performing arts, history, and literature. Bearden was also a celebrated humanist who demonstrated a lifelong support of young, emerging artists. And they are words that speak the truth.

It is with this recognition that Black art and artists are overdue their rightful place in the arc of American art that the Hudson River Museum is proud to present African American Art in the 20th Century. This exhibition comprises superb 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, the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and beyond. Drawn from the premier collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) in Washington D.C., the gathering includes outstanding works by artists whose names are internationally known, as well as those who are finally getting the attention that has been a long time coming. In addition to Romare Bearden, artists include Frederick Brown, Beauford Delaney, Jacob Lawrence, Loïs Mailou Jones, and Renée Stout, whose work ranges in style from portraiture to modern abstraction to the postmodern assemblage of found objects. We are most grateful to our colleagues at SAAM for sharing their artworks with us and our community.

Very much of the 21st century, this season we are thrilled to share the museum debut of Jamel Robinson, the Hudson River Museum’s Teaching Artist-in-Residence for fall 2021. Robinson is a painter, sculptor, writer, and performance artist who has evolved an individual style of abstraction. In Beauty from Ashes, Robinson creates responses to the masterpieces on view in African American Art in the 20th Century. For the Harlem-based artist, 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.”

We invite you to be part of this evolving legacy of artistic and social expression in one of the many exceptional programs we have in store this season. Bring your family to Family Studio Art Workshop: Beauty Dream to make new memories together. Is music and spoken word more your style? Then don’t miss Poetry Reading & Responsive Writing. Want to know more about the creative explosion that was the Harlem Renaissance? Then join us for a virtual walking tour of historic Harlem.

Whatever you choose, we’re confident you will find a work that speaks to your interest in connecting with the human experience here at the HRM. And we always appreciate hearing more about what moved you and why, so if you’re not yet a follower, take a moment to see what we’re up to on Instagram or share an aspect of your visit with us.

Here’s to seeing you at the Museum and to all of us seeing the excellence that has been there all along,

Masha Turchinsky
Director and CEO


Image (from left to right): Jacob Lawrence, “Men exist for the sake of one another. Teach them then or bear with them.”—Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Meditations, VIII:59, 1958. Oil on fiberboard. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of the Container Corporation of America, 1984.124.171. Jacob Lawrence, Community (study for mural, Jamaica, NY), 1986. Gouache on paper. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Transfer from the General Services Administration, Art-in-Architecture Program, 1990.36. 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. Frederick Brown, Reverend Reid, 1981. Oil on canvas. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of Byron Lewis, 2009.42.1.