Art in the City: Romare Bearden

A fabulous group of works by Romare Bearden, one of the most influential artists of the last 50 years, is being shown at the Brooklyn Museum as part of the “Romare Bearden Homecoming Celebration” taking place throughout New York City this winter.
Bearden’s signature use of collage — cutting and gluing painted or colored paper, fabric, and photos — enabled him to create complex visual compositions within essentially flat spaces. Bearden was inspired by the Cubists, who used collage to distort or gain a distance from their subject matter, but he preferred to use that method to tell a story or reveal a particular history. “In my work,” he explained, “I see connections so that my paintings can’t only be what they appear to represent. People in a baptism are linked to John the Baptist, to certain purification rites, and to the African heritage. I feel this connection of ritual gives a dimension to the works so that they are something other than mere designs.” The works reveal themes from jazz music, Bearden’s childhood in North Carolina, and his interaction with luminaries from the Harlem Renaissance.

The works are large, vibrant, and widely spaced so viewers can enjoy them without feeling crowded. As part of the exhibit, the Brooklyn Museum has provided various anthologies and books on Bearden in an adjoining room.

The only shortcoming of the exhibit is that of the some 2,000 works the artist created, only a handful are displayed.  

Ryan Gavaghan

“Romare Bearden: Works from the Collection” can be seen at the Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway.


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