Memphis Brooks Museum of Art opens "The Soul of a City: Memphis Collects African American Art"

Jun 5, 2012

This summer, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art will showcase the diversity, vitality, and creativity of African American art in The Soul of a City: Memphis Collects African American Art, an exhibition of more than 100 important and thought-provoking paintings, photographs, drawings, sculptures, and mixed media works selected from private and public collections in Memphis.

The exhibition surveys great themes in art history as expressed through sections devoted to landscape, genre, still life, portraiture, folk art, abstraction, religion, music, the Civil Rights movement, and contemporary art.

The Soul of a City will include marquee names in American art, including painters Norman Lewis, Kehinde Wiley, Jacob Lawrence,  Sam Gilliam, Radcliffe Bailey, and Alma Thomas;  folk artists Clementine Hunter, Purvis Young, and Elijah Pierce; sculptors Chakaia Booker and Elizabeth Catlett; collagists Romare Bearden and Wangechi Mutu; mixed media artists Glenn Ligon and Whitfield Lovell; and photographers James van der Zee, Lorna Simpson, and Carrie Mae Weems.  The exhibition also features work by regional artists, including the late sculptor William Edmondson, the first African American artist to be given a one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art; self-taught Alabama artist Thornton Dial; and a wide range of work by established and emerging Memphians including photographer Ernest Withers; painters George Hunt, Brenda Joysmith, Twin, Jared Small, Danny Broadway, Anthony Lee, and Dewitt Jordan; quilter Hattie Childress; and sculptors Luther Hampton, Edwin Jeffrey, and Hawkins Bouldin. 

The Brooks will collaborate with various community groups, including Hattiloo Theatre and the Stax Music Academy, on various educational components, including an Art and Soul Family Day on Saturday, June 23.  See all events at

The Soul of a City:  Memphis Collects African American Art opens Saturday, June 9 and runs through Sunday, September 2.  I spoke to the Brooks Museum's Chief Curator Marina Pacini, about the exhibit and about how she approached putting this collection together.