Monday, July 22, 2013

LOS ANGELES: The Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African-American Art – Works on Paper

Claude Clark, Rain, not dated, Offset lithograph, 15-3/4 x 20 inches, Image courtesy of the California African American Museum.
July 11 – September 13, 2013

600 State Drive, Exposition Park
Los Angeles, CA

The California African American Museum (CAAM) presents the unrivaled exhibition The Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art: Works on Paper, on view at CAAM from July 11, 2013 through September 13, 2013. This is one of the most comprehensive traveling exhibitions ever organized featuring works on paper by African-American artists from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

The 69 works in the exhibition include drawings, etchings, lithographs, watercolors, pastels, acrylics, gouaches, linoleum cuts and color screen prints by such noted artists as Ron Adams, Benny Andrews, Romare Bearden, Aaron Douglas, Jacob Lawrence, Charles White, Elizabeth Catlett, John Biggers, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Eldizer Cortor, Margaret Burroughs, and many other outstanding lesser known artists. They are a small fraction of the Kelley’s large collection that reads similar to a “Who’s Who” of the masters of late 19th- and 20th-century African-American art. Esteemed art historian, David Driskell, Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland at College Park, calls the Kelley Collection "one of the finest that has been assembled tracing the history of African American art." The works on paper that were gleaned from the Kelley Collection for this exhibition provide a rare opportunity for the public to view master graphics spanning three centuries of African-American art.

“In addition to preserving irreplaceable African American art, The Kelley Collection gives the African American artists featured a large platform to share their work with America,” says CAAM Executive Director Charmaine Jefferson.   “We are thrilled that this collection will be at CAAM for the Los Angeles community to see work of the profound artists rarely featured at other art institutions in the city.” 

The Kelleys live in San Antonio, TX. Dr. Harmon Kelley, an obstetrician-gynecologist, and his insightful wife, Harriet, a college-trained biologist, were inspired to begin collecting after viewing an exhibition of African-American art at the San Antonio Museum of Art, where they did not recognize any of the artists’ names. Feeling a sense of cultural isolation, they vowed to educate themselves about this unknown aspect of their heritage. They also wanted to ensure that their two young daughters would become aware of the artistic achievements of African-Americans. The Kelleys could not have imagined initially that their budding art collection would become the fabric of any museum’s dreams, that it would overflow their three-story Neo-Georgian home and travel to major venues in the United States and abroad. Their younger daughter and advisor from early on is a Spelman College-trained art historian who serves as curator of the collection and will advance this remarkable legacy to the next generation and beyond.

Dr. Regenia Perry, Ph.D., Professor Emerita of African and African-American Art, Virginia Commonwealth University, art historian, collector and curator, contributes an introduction to the exhibition and to the Kelleys as collectors.

The California African American Museum (CAAM) researches, collects, preserves and interprets for public enrichment the history, art and culture of African Americans. Chartered by the California State Legislature in 1977, CAAM is a state supported institution and a partner with the 501(c)(3) non- profit organization Friends, the Foundation of the California African American Museum. In addition to its permanent collection of over 3,000 objects of art, artifacts and historical documents, CAAM also houses a research library containing more than 20,000 volumes, employs and trains high school students through its Young Docents program, and hosts in-house curated exhibitions and traveling exhibitions on a regular basis.  The museum also tours CAAM exhibitions throughout California and the nation.

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