Arthur Ross Gallery Unveils “David C. Driskell and Friends: Creativity, Collaboration, and Friendship”

Lisbeth Thalberg Lisbeth Thalberg
David C. Driskell, Mask Series II, 2019, Relief Woodcut, 14.50 x 11 in. Gift of Raven Fine Art Editions, 2019.10.002, Photography by Greg Staley, 2019

The Arthur Ross Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania is proud to announce its upcoming exhibition “David C. Driskell and Friends: Creativity, Collaboration, and Friendship,” set to open from June 15 to September 15, 2024. This exhibit offers a deep dive into the work and influence of the renowned artist, art historian, and curator David C. Driskell, showcasing his relationships with notable figures such as Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence, Keith Morrison, and Hale Woodruff, among others.

Alma Thomas
Alma Thomas, Untitled, c. 1966, Acrylic on paper, 9 x 35.50 in. Gift of Susan Kaim Talley and Bascom D. Talley III, 2020.04.001, Photography by Greg Staley, 2020

An Exhibition of Legacy and Innovation

This marks the fourth iteration of the national traveling exhibition, with a curatorial emphasis on form and color in abstraction. David C. Driskell, a pivotal figure in the art world, curated the groundbreaking exhibition “Two Centuries of Black American Art: 1750–1950” in 1976, which significantly expanded the presence of both contemporary and historical Black American art in American museums. Many artists featured in that landmark exhibition are also included in this one.

“David C. Driskell and Friends: Creativity, Collaboration, and Friendship” highlights the growing recognition of African American and African Diaspora art as essential to the art historical canon. Driskell was a crucial catalyst in this drive for greater visibility, both as a scholar and an artist. This dual path is thoroughly explored in the current exhibition.

Curatorial Vision and Featured Artists

Co-curated by Sheila Bergman, Curlee Raven Holton, and Heather Sincavage, in collaboration with Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, the inaugural Faculty Director at the Arthur Ross Gallery, this exhibition focuses on the abstraction found in the works of Driskell and other artists. Featured creators include Charles Alston, Romare Bearden, John Biggers, Elizabeth Catlett, Claude Clark Sr., Aaron Douglas, Melvin Edwards, and many more. The exhibition foregrounds their use of form, color, and their interest in the places comprising the vast African Diaspora.

A Reflection on Historical Impact

“This exhibition exemplifies the lightning rod of change that the artworks and curatorial vision by David C. Driskell represent,” stated Emily Zimmerman, Director of Exhibitions and Curatorial Affairs at the Arthur Ross Gallery. “As a university art gallery dedicated to transformative scholarship, it is a pleasure to present the work of a group of artists that changed the course of art history to canonize the work of Black American and African Diasporic artists in the 1970s. It was radical then and remains a vital chapter in art history.”

Accompanying Materials and Exhibition Tour

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalog featuring artwork, photographs, essays, and extensive material on Driskell’s life and works. This traveling exhibition debuted at the Sordoni Art Gallery of Wilkes University and has since been exhibited at the California Museum of Photography at the University of California, Riverside, and The David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland. Following its time at the Arthur Ross Gallery, it will travel to the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum at Saginaw Valley State University, the Frist Art Museum, and the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University.

“David C. Driskell & Friends: Creativity, Collaboration, and Friendship” is organized by The Driskell Center, University of Maryland. The exhibition and its related programming have received support from the Teiger Foundation.

David C. Driskell, Five Blue Notes
David C. Driskell, Five Blue Notes, 1980, Painting, 22.50 x 29.50 in. Gift of Nene Humphrey from the Benny Andrews and Nene Humphrey Collection, 2010.06.020 © David C. Driskell/David C. Driskell Center, 2017, Photography by Greg Staley, 2018.
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Journalist and artist (photographer). Editor of the art section at MCM.
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