African American Art: The Time is Now

By March 27, 2019 News

The resurgence of interest in African American art is a major theme in the current art market. ACA Galleries, with its decades-long history of exhibiting work by African American artists, is at the forefront of this revival. Since the gallery’s founding in 1932, ACA has been instrumental in bringing the work of African American artists to critical and public recognition, often when these artists met with resistance elsewhere. Artists who are now part of the American canon, and whose works are represented in major museums, galleries, and private collections, were often given their first New York exhibition at ACA.

Among the most significant of these artists is Romare Bearden. Now considered one of the masters of American art, Bearden’s paintings and collages sizzle with life: the life of the Harlem street, the rural south, the spirituality of the Caribbean. Bearden embraced the totality of Black America’s experience, its joys, and struggles, and through that embrace created powerful images of African American resilience and creativity. There is a sense of music in his imagery, there are depths of love as much as sorrow. But most of all, there is Bearden’s high art. His work is represented in America’s most prestigious museums, among them the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Art Institute of Chicago and others.

Faith Ringgold, honored as a major cultural figure in American art, has enjoyed a long association with ACA Galleries, where her work continues to be among the most popular of the gallery’s holdings. Beginning with her activism in the 1960s on behalf of African American and women artists seeking professional parity with white male artists, Ringgold has proved an undeniable force. The power of her 1963 twenty-painting cycle “The American People,” a saga of racial and gender struggle but also of American hope, announced to the art establishment in no uncertain terms that Ringgold was an artist to be taken seriously. She has since maintained her high standing in the art market with majestic works in fabric, paint, and sculpture referencing African American and Feminist themes. Her story quilts are among the most exhibited works in her oeuvre. The recipient of numerous awards, Ringgold’s art is represented in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C., and others across the country.

ACA Galleries holds the distinction of giving Social Realist artist Charles White his first New York exhibition in 1947. Working in a genre which often uses a raw and brutal approach in order to address social injustice, White’s exquisite handling of line, color and tone instead finds visual poetry in these themes. After a period of travel and living in Mexico, absorbing the influences of that country’s muralist traditions, White returned to New York, where he found his own artistic voice in a muted palette of blacks, browns, white, sepia and their attendant tonalities. The richness of these images and their depths of feeling for human experience and struggle were on ample display in ACA’s 1947 exhibition, leading to additional critical recognition for the artist: in 1952, the Whitney Museum of American Art purchased White’s drawing, “Preacher,” for its permanent collection. In addition to the Whitney, White’s art is in major museums in America and abroad, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw’s Palace of Culture, Moscow’s Pushkin Museum and others.

ACA Galleries continues to feature the work of America’s outstanding African American artists, with successful and highly praised shows by Amina Brenda Lynn Robinson, Richard Mayhew, Jacob Lawrence, and others. At this important social and political moment, when the African American community’s creative contribution to American history and culture demands greater acknowledgment, ACA Galleries is proud of the historical role they’ve played in bringing this community’s art into public view. The gallery is committed to continuing to bring the work of African American artists to the attention of the art public, offering selections suitable for experienced collectors and those newly entering the field.