Roland Ayers: Calligraphy of Dreams


Woodmere Art Museum is honored to present Roland Ayers: Calligraphy of Dreams, the most comprehensive exhibition to date of Roland Ayers (1932–2014), an acclaimed African American artist who was born in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia.  Ayers’ work draws on personal experience, dreams, and the history of Black America to explore identity in the context of Civil Rights-era Philadelphia.

Ayers studied at the Philadelphia College of the Arts (now the University of the Arts) with Jerome Kaplan, Jacob Landau, and Benton Spruance. His work was collected by museums in his lifetime, and he enjoyed a one-person show at the Studio Museum in Harlem. He also worked extensively with the Brandywine Workshop in Philadelphia. Through his unique style and iconography, he made reference to the broader canons of art history and responded to the social and political climate of his time. Ayers' free-flowing compositions--heavily influenced by the improvisational nature of jazz--merged dreams, memories, and the landscapes of Philadelphia into fantastical images. Through his meditative artistic practice, he explored his own unconscious visualized through nature, architecture, and the body. This exhibition includes approximately 50 works of art, offering a thirty-year survey of Ayers' drawings, prints, and paintings. Roland Ayers: Calligraphy of Dreams is curated by TK Smith, a curator, writer, and Ph.D. candidate in the History of American Civilization program at the University of Delaware.


Exhibition-related Events 

July 10 | 2 pm | Opening Reception

Oct 9 | 2 pm| Member Exchange Part 1: Remembering Paul Robeson: Up Close and Personal

Oct 17 | 2 pm | Member Exchange Part 2: "A New Twist on Art Collecting" & Paul Robeson House & Museum Tour

Oct 20 | 6 pm | Entanglements with the Erotic: Roland Ayers and the Liberation of Flesh



The exhibition has been featured in an episode of Woodmere's podcast, Diving Board. To subscribe and listen, click here.

Roland Ayers: Calligraphy of Dreams

Master draftsman Roland Ayers (1932–2014) was born in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, and he studied at the Philadelphia College of the Arts (now the University of the Arts).
  • Galleries are open Wednesday through Sunday. Masks are required. Click here to learn more.