Race Matters: Cultural Politics in the 1960s

Webinar Series

The 1960s was a tumultuous moment in American history as racial equality movements propelled sweeping changes to the body politic. This critical juncture in the nation’s race relations captured the public’s attention as the media delivered the unfolding drama to their doorsteps. The turbulent racial climate spurred the artist’s Romare Bearden’s pivotal turn to collage and return to Black figuration. 

This webinar series presents new insights into the work of Bearden and his contemporaries. His fellow artists, who came from diverse racial backgrounds, joined Bearden in responding to the tenor of the times and tackling Black subject matter and/or racial themes in their work. The series will expand our understanding of how racial concerns were articulated during this watershed decade.

Bearden at location of first Spiral exhibition (147 Christopher St, NYC), c. 1965; Romare Bearden Papers [dlooge55], The Wildenstein Plattner Institute, Inc.


Tomorrow I May Be Far Away — with Bridget R. Cooks

Thursday, September 7, 2023 at 1:00 pm ET

In this talk, art historian Bridget R. Cooks addresses Romare Bearden’s ability to engage the Black and mainstream art worlds during the 1960s and ’70s. During this time, his art was revered as exemplary of American art and Black art in different institutional contexts delineated by race. Cooks discusses how Bearden navigated his presence in both worlds through his art and exhibitions.

Bridget R. Cooks is a scholar and curator of American art. She serves as Chancellor’s Fellow and Professor of African American Studies and Art History at the University of California, Irvine. She is most well-known as the author of the book, Exhibiting Blackness: African Americans and the American Art Museum (2011).

Romare Bearden, Tomorrow I May Be Far Away (1966-7) © Romare Bearden Foundation / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.s

Romare Bearden, the South, and the Southern Black Arts Movement — with James Smethurst

Thursday, September 14, 2023 at 1:00 pm ET

This talk will discuss the place of the South, what Romare Bearden described as the “homeland of my imagination” in Bearden’s work. It will also consider the impact of Bearden and his work on the Black Arts Movement in the South during the 1960s and 1970s. 

James Smethurst is a Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is the author of The New Red Negro: The Literary Left and African American Poetry, 1930-1946The Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970sThe African American Roots of ModernismBrick City Vanguard: Amiri Baraka, Black Music, Black Modernity; and Behold the Land: A History of the Black Arts Movement in the South. His current book project studies the interchange between the Black Arts Movement in Britain and in the United States. 

Jim Alexander, Romare Bearden and Nanette at the Neighborhood Arts Center in Atlanta, March 1978 © Jim Alexander

Dr. Caroline Vercoe — The University of Auckland

Thursday, November 2, 2023 at 4:00 pm ET (November 3, 8am NZST)

Witness: Rauschenberg Reflects on the Tumultuous 1960s — with Helen Hsu

Thursday, September 28, 2023 at 1:00 pm ET

Deploying methods of collage, innovated with solvent transfer and screenprinting techniques, Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008) appropriated from, intervened in, and disrupted the ever proliferating mass media imagescape. “Witness” presents examples of the artist’s work from the 1960s that crystallize the decade’s cultural reckonings and historical crises. Rauschenberg’s remaking and reinvention of collective visual sources invites viewers to critically engage with shifting conditions of recognition and obscurity, recasting the encounter with an artwork as a form of creative participation.

Helen Hsu is the Associate Curator for Research at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. She was formerly an assistant curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and is an alumna of Stanford University.

Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008 Untitled, 1968 Solvent transfer, gouache, and watercolor on paper 57.2 75.9 cm Robert Rauschenberg Foundation © 2023 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
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