Life Is a Journey
So much of art history in the 20th century can be seen in the work of Romare Bearden. Born in Charlotte in 1911, the artist started out being influenced by Mexican muralists such as Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco before taking on aspects of Cubism and abstract art. Yet Bearden was no mere follower of trends. He was a wildly original artist who rendered both the jazz musicians of Harlem and the landscapes of the South unsentimentally, finding joy, beauty, danger, and sensuality in these environments.
Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey focuses on the series of collages he executed in 1977. Using Homer’s The Odyssey as a point of inspiration, these angular and brightly colored works retell the story as one of African warriors and gods. These figures’ facial features may recall those of African masks, but their eyes twinkle with mischief, menace, or determination that’s wholly Bearden’s own. The African-American context rings some unexpected resonances with the story, but Bearden’s take on the hero’s long journey also strikes universal themes, befitting one of Western culture’s main texts. Organized by the Smithsonian Institution, this show comes to the Amon Carter Museum on the heels of the 25th anniversary of Bearden’s death. You can see the power and innovation of this uniquely American artist.