We Speak: Black Artists in Philadelphia, 1920s-1970s


About the Exhibition

We Speak: Black Artists in Philadelphia, 1920s-1970s, featured over 70 paintings, photographs, sculptures, and prints produced by black artists living and working in Philadelphia during the roughly 50 year period. The exhibition focused on a range of this city’s organizations and institutions and considers the degree to which they offered black artists a platform from which to launch their careers and have a voice.

The curatorial framework is anchored between two significant historical events. In 1925 Philadelphian Alain Locke’s published “The Legacy of the Ancestral Arts,” an important moment in the New Negro Arts Movement that issued a call to black American artists to find inspiration in their African heritage. The exhibition concludes in the 1970s with the nation’s bicentennial year, when American ideals of liberty and equality were being reconsidered in a contemporary context.

Unique to this exhibition are the voices of the artists who lived during this period. The curators conducted a series of 14 interviews with artists and their families, museum directors, art dealers, and scholars. The interviews provide original insight into the workings of Philadelphia’s art institutions and the roles these institutions played in the artists’ lives. In addition to serving as the foundation for the exhibition catalogue, these interviews shaped the direction and development of the exhibition, revealing unknown artists and under recognized institutions and organizations whose inclusion has added significantly to the breadth of the show.

The exhibition considers the impact of a broad range of academic, professional, commercial, cultural, and exhibiting organizations and institutions. These include the Graphic Arts Workshop of the Works Progress Administration; the Barnes Foundation; the Pyramid Club; the Philadelphia Public Schools; the Wharton Center and other settlement houses, the Ile-Ife Black Humanitarian Center; the National Conference of Artists; the Brandywine Workshop; the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum, as well as a number of Philadelphia academies, museums, universities, galleries, and artist groups.

Featured artists include: James Atkins (b. 1941); Roland Ayers (1932– 2014); James Brantley (b. 1945); Benjamin Britt (1923–1996); Moe Brooker (b. 1940); Samuel J. Brown (1907–1994); Barbara Bullock (b. 1938); Selma Burke (1900–1995); Donald Eugene Camp (b. 1940); Barbara Chase-Riboud (b. 1939); Laura Williams Chassot (b. 1942); Claude C.F. Clark (1915–2001); Louise Clement–Hoff (b. 1926); Reba Dickerson-Hill (1919–1994); Aaron Douglas (1899–1979); John E. Dowell, Jr. (b. 1941); James Dupree (b. 1950); Allan L. Edmunds (b. 1949); Walter Edmonds (1938– 2011); Allan R. Freelon, Sr., (1895–1960); Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller (1877–1968); Reginald Adolphus Gammon, (1921–2005); John T. Harris (1908–1972); Barkley L. Hendricks (b. 1945); Humbert L. Howard (1915–1990); Edward Ellis Hughes (b. 1940); Charles Jay, (b. 1947); LeRoy Johnson (b. 1937); Martina Johnson-Allen (b. 1947); Edward Jones (b. 1942); Ida Jones (1874–1959); Paul F. Keene, Jr. (1920–2009); Columbus Knox (1923–1999); Edward L. Loper, Sr. (1916–2011); John W. Mosley (1907–1969); Jerry Pinkney (b. 1939); Horace Pippin (1888–1946); Charles Aaron Pridgen (1922–1991); Raymond Saunders (b. 1934); Charles Searles (1937–2004); Twins Seven Seven (1944–2011); Louis Sloan (1932–2008); Raymond Steth (1917–1997); Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859–1937); Dox Thrash (1893–1965); Ellen Powell Tiberino (1938–1992); Laura Wheeler Waring (1887–1948); Howard Watson (b. 1929); Richard J. Watson (b. 1946); Deborah Willis (b. 1948)

Susanna W. Gold, Ph.D., Guest Curator
Rachel McCay, Assistant Curator, Woodmere Art Museum

Open House: Saturday October 10, 2015 | 4:00-6:00pm
Curator Talk: Saturday October 10, 2015 | 3:00pm

We Speak

We Speak: Black Artists in Philadelphia, 1920s-1970s, features over 70 paintings, photographs, sculptures, and prints produced by black artists living and working in Philadelphia.

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Press Releases

We Speak: Black Artists Of Philadelphia, 1920s – 1970s

Woodmere Art Museum