Exposure: Black Voices in the Arts

Exhibition Dates
November 10 – December 11 2015
Exhibition Location
University Art Gallery, Frick Fine Arts Building, University of Pittsburgh
Exposure: Black Voices in the Arts illuminates the historical and contemporary absence of black art exhibited in or collected by mainstream art institutions, using the 3,000-object permanent collection of the University Art Gallery (UAG) as a starting point and a microcosm of the larger visual arts field. The UAG is located in the Frick Fine Arts building, which was generously donated by Helen Clay Frick in 1965 with the intention to house her extensive art collection. Even though Miss Frick subsequently built a new museum in Point Breeze and moved her collection there, her strong preference for classic, European art serves as the foundation of the UAG’s collection today. Remnants of her artistic tastes are still visible in the building’s architectural style and the artwork in the cloister.

The collection today is quite eclectic with artwork from various cultures and periods acquired over time. There remains a tangible absence of black and African American art in the collection. Absence is not limited to the University Art Gallery and reaches beyond representation in art collections. There is a striking dearth of black artists and curators in institutions and galleries throughout the greater Pittsburgh area and across the country. There is also a real lack of public knowledge of culturally and artistically significant contributions by black artists. Pittsburgh as a city has been strongly affected by the Great Migration, the exodus of African-Americans from the South to northern urban areas between 1915 and 1972, especially in the history of industrial workers in this area. As Pittsburgh is colloquially known as Steel Town, heavy industry, especially steel, has had a great impact on Pittsburgh’s culture including its arts.

The intention of Exposure: Black Voices in the Arts is to celebrate artwork by local artists of black, African-American, and African diasporic origins. The artists whose pieces are showcased in this exhibition work in a broad range of media and demonstrate artwork that is evocative of diverse experiences and unique creative perspectives. These contributions have enriched the American cultural landscape in immeasurable ways. We hope that this exhibition will call attention to a historical absence and encourage visitors to think critically about how we can work together toward a richer, more inclusive future that celebrates all artistic voices and expressions within the field.

This exhibition was organized by the History of Art & Architecture’s 2015 Museum Studies Seminar  class and made possible with the generous support of The Fine Foundation; the Office of Undergraduate Studies from the University of Pittsburgh’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and the History of Art and Architecture Department of the University of Pittsburgh. Special thanks to Janet McCall, Executive Director, Society for Contemporary Craft and instructor of the Museum Studies Seminar; University Art Gallery Curator Isabelle Chartier, graduate teaching assistant Marina Tyquiengco, and undergraduate teaching assistants Emily Mirales and Melissa Quarto for their guidance and support of this project. We are grateful to all of the artists who responded to our call as well as the collectors who generously lent their work. We also acknowledge, with gratitude, the advice and assistance of Jazmin Jackson, Deborah Osakue, Dr. Gabby Yearwood, Darrell Kinsel and Julie Mallis of BOOM Concepts; Mary Carey and Transformazium, the art lending library at Braddock Carnegie Library; David Oresick of Silver Eye Gallery; and Pat McArdle.

Participating artists: 
Kee L. Adams                              Harriette Meriwether
Vania Arthur                                Bekezela Mguni
Jo-Anne Bates                            Ayanah Moor
Romare Bearden                        Thad Mosley
C. McCray-Bethea                      Doretha Murray
Temujian Bey                              Kenneth Neely
Charles Bibb                               Larry Neil
Tina Williams Brewer                 Staycee and Herman Pearl
Norman Brown                           Altha Pittrell
Grits Capone                              Amir Rashidd
Kelli Clark                                   Errol "Mobutu" Reynold
Curtis Cureton                           Ruth Richardson
Lincoln Cushing                        Latrice “Phoenix” Rose
Deavron Dailey                          Todd Steele
George Gist                                Carl "Dingbat" Smith
Charles “Teenie” Harris            Ty Smith
Mayota Hill                                  Mozelle Thompson
Frank Floyd Hightower              Rosemarie Toliver
DJ Jackson                                 Lauren Valley
Natiq Jalil                                    Briana Walker
Rashad Jamaal                           Marcel Walker
Pascale Joseph                          Ernest Watson
Charlotte Ka                               James E. White, Jr
LaVerne Kemp                           Alisha Wormsley
James Kidd
Jacob Lawrence
Jerome Link