New York

Romare Bearden

The Studio Museum in Harlem

With this memorial retrospective, Romare Bearden clearly emerges as a major American artist, of the order of Stuart Davis. That is, like Davis, Bearden assimilates Modernist modes to his own ends. While Bearden ostensibly deals with black life—initially rural and eventually urban—themes of universal consequence pervade his art. Images of woman, for example, recur throughout his oeuvre, not only in the remarkable “Conjur Women” series of 1964 but to more pointedly erotic ends in paintings such as Madame’s White Bird, 1975 and Storvyille, 1979. Similarly, Bearden’s use of Modernist fragmentation, and the Modernist dialectics of abstraction and representation (manifest here as juxtapositions of painted planes and photography), are put to mythopoeic use. That is, they become symptomatic—indeed, emblematic—not only of the tensions in black American life but in modern life more generally.


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