Taking a closer look at art, spoken word, and Black culture, retail titan Macy’s will be hosting a series of events this February. Their largest event, will be the Romare Bearden Exhibit. Bearden was an innovative artist from the 1930’s-1980’s.
Growing up in New York, his family held numerous meetings for major players of the Harlem Renaissance. When he graduated high-school, he chose to attend the first HBCU in America…Lincoln University.
During college, Bearden supported himself by drawing cartoons. Each week, he created a cartoon for the Baltimore Afro-American Newspaper.
Bearden was an artist that created abstract, yet eye-catching works for art. The majority of his art portrays things he saw during his everyday life. These images he saw on a daily basis, were transformed into masterpieces.
Although he was White, all of his works depict African Americans in various settings during some of the His abstract art focused on how powerful Blacks are.
Bearden’s art focused on religion, Blues music, and even tensions in the South. He integrated his style of art with American Modernism.
During this era his artistic choices were bold and courageous.
His reasoning for using African Americans as art subjects, was to show the unity that they had- especially during these tremulous times.
Bearden made art out of whatever materials he could find. Brown wrapping paper and quilt pieces were a couple of the items he used to create his works. He was also known for making collages; taking different pictures and creating an entirely new art piece.
He was motivated by other artists before him. Some artists that Romere Bearden looked up to were: Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco; both were known for their Mexican murals. These murals depicted various political and social settings. Romare Bearden’s works were similar to this style of art.
Some of his most important works include: Folk Musicians, Factory Workers, and Patchwork Quilt.
Folk Musicians was created by Romare Bearden in 1941. This art shows the passion African Americans had for music. The blue hues in the picture gives a nod to the blues music era. While all races use music to express themselves, African Americans depended on music to make a living, as well as, convey messages to one another.
A year after he made Folk Musicians, Factory Workers was created. This piece realistically portrayed how life was for African Americans. In the background, you can see the factory. The men aren’t actually working, but seem to be trying to attain employment. During this time period, African Americans had a difficult time finding work. Although they are dressed in jackets and ties, their skin color was still a major issue.
In 1970, Romare Bearden combined paint and pieces of cloth to create his masterpiece, Patchwork Quilt. African Americans, were known for using patchwork for clothing. He pulled ideas from Black southern roots.
Bearden’s art was featured in some of the nation’s biggest magazines. Some of these include Ebony, Jet, and Forbes. Not only was he a famous artist, but he was also a musician. In the 50s, he co-wrote Seabreeze. This jazzy tune became well-known during this time period.
Bearden once stated, “Art is the soul of a people”. This was the message he conveyed in all of his works. He wanted to capture the essence and spirit of everyday people.
Due to his achievements, Romare Bearden was passionate about helping aspiring artists to succeed. In 1990, two years after he passed, Bearden’s family created he Bearden Foundation. This program is one that helps art students get an education.
Bearden’s one-of-a-kind artwork will be featured at Macy’s in select locations. Check out their website for more details.
Watch: The Smithsonian Pays Tribute To Romare Bearden