This past Saturday in time for Black History month, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power opened at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. The exhibition celebrates the work of 60 American artists from 1963 – 1983, in the wake of the Civil Rights movement. Developed by the Tate Modern in London, the collection showcases artists such as Romare Bearden, Noah Purifoy, Martin Puryear, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, Alma Thomas, Charles White, and William T. Williams.
It is a significant undertaking by the Crystal Bridges Museum, founded by the daughter of Sam Walton, the Wal-Mart patriarch. According to Crystal Bridges curator of contemporary art Lauren Haynes, the exhibition will hopefully “provide a glimpse into the many different ways in which artists respond to the world around them.” She went on to acknowledge that “This exhibition and others show that black artists have been making important art in this country, and contributing to important art movements, for a long time. We’re at a moment where that work is being more consistently recognized.”
Frances Morris, director of the Tate says in the show’s catalogue, “The artists in Soul of a Nation were asking the most fundamental questions about their role: Should a work of art communicate a direct political message? Could it be abstract? What materials should a work of art be made from? Is there a ‘Black Art or a Black aesthetic?'”