Black History Month presents an opportunity to explore and reflect upon the cultures and communities of not just African Americans, but peoples of African descent around the world and those residing on the African continent.
The Chrysler Museum has a number of artists from the African Diaspora in its permanent collection as well as in its changing exhibitions. Kimberli Gant, PhD, McKinnon Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art, highlights a few of these works to present the range of the Museum’s collection and focus on some of our unique objects.
During your visit, explore the Galleries and look for a Gallery Host (in blue) if you have any questions. Visiting online only? See more collection highlight here.
James Baldwin (1924–1987) was a true literary genius from a very early age, but most images depict him as a serious, older male. Delaney’s painting shows Baldwin in his youth, with the bright coloring adding a joyous atmosphere. Gallery 222
Carved ivory dates back to ancient times and came from many cultures around the world. There are examples of carved ivory tusks from central Africa that were created as early as the sixteenth century for use by royalty. This later example was probably commissioned by the high-ranking person within the Belgian colonial regime. Belgium took control of a large section of central Africa from 1885–1960, exploiting and extracting the natural resources of rubber and gold. Gallery 110
“This selection teaches visitors about the important legacy of peoples of African descent throughout history. The works by both named and unnamed artists demonstrate the artistic depth and breadth of people past and present and hopefully heightens the visitor’s experience.”
This portrait is the oldest work in the collection by a named African-American artist. Johnson is known for his painted portraits of prominent families and individuals, primarily from the Baltimore area where he lived and worked. This work is typical of his style. The subjects appear in a stiff manner with little facial expressions and a three-quarter view with a plain background. Gallery 209
Quilting has a long history within the African-American community. The tradition can be linked to older weaving traditions throughout communities in western Africa. The artist Loretta Pettway is from Gee’s Bend, a formerly insular community in rural Alabama with a longstanding quilting tradition dating back to the early twentieth century. Pettway’s technique uses bold, asymmetrical designs, linking her work to abstract styles. Gallery 223
Kehinde Wiley is known for large Baroque-style paintings featuring African American working class men and women. He often uses famous historic subject matter and replaces the main figure with someone he met. By substituting the central protagonist, Wiley tries to reinsert African-Americans into the narrative of art history. Find this large-scale painting on view in our Baroque Gallery. Gallery 205
Rashid Johnson often plays with materials and situations that are part of African-American vernacular culture and everyday life. In this work, the artist incorporates black soap, which is derived from plants found in Western Africa. The soap is found in plantain, cocoa pods, shea butter, and palm trees and has been used in skin care regimens for African-American men and women for centuries. Johnson incorporates the substance to suggest new ways of thinking about traditional art materials. Gallery 103 (On view in the Waitzer Community Gallery in response to the current exhibition Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century.)
Have you ever seen thousands of tiny Czech glass beads sewn together to create an incredible mosaic? See Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence which features more than a dozen female bead artists from KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. This collective of artists developed a new form of bead art that uses the colored glass to transform black cloth into incredible contemporary art. The exhibition presents a range of images and styles and reinforces the dynamic practices taking place today across the African continent. Gallery 118, 200, and 204.
Need to Know
- The Chrysler Museum has free parking.
- The Museum is wheelchair and stroller accessible. There is a lift at the main entrance and an elevator off Huber Court.
- We have a free coat check where we ask you to leave umbrellas and book bags.
- Food is not allowed in the galleries; however you are more than welcome to sit and eat in Huber Court.
- Our restaurant, Wisteria, is open the same hours of the Museum.
- The Chrysler Museum has a mothering room available in our Theater lobby.
Make the Most of Your Visit
These galleries are a great place to look at color and shape with your little ones.
Watch artists create beautiful works out of molten hot glass at a live demo.
Pick up gallery activities inspired by what’s on view at the Museum.