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Arts and Entertainment

Uptown sculpture links artistic masters, friends
'Spiral Odyssey' tribute to Romare Bearden
Published Thursday, September 21, 2017 8:21 am
by Ashley Mahoney

Richard Hunt’s “Spiral Odyssey” acknowledges the work of Charlotte-born artist Romare Bearden. “Spiral Odyssey,” which was installed at Romare Bearden Park in May, will be dedicated Sept. 23.

You may have noticed the 30-foot stainless steel sculpture in Romare Bearden Park.

Since its installation in May, Richard Hunt’s “Spiral Odyssey” has raised interest and eyeballs. The public dedication takes place on Sept. 23, preceded by a private event at the Mint Museum Uptown. Hunt and Romare Bearden scholars Mary Schmidt Campbell (Spelman College’s president) and Robert G. O’Meally (Zora Neale Hurston professor of comparative literature at Columbia University) will preside over a conversation concerning Bearden.

Hunt, a Chicago-based artist, created “Spiral Odyssey” as an acknowledgement of Bearden’s work. Hunt and Bearden are the first two African-American artists with one-person exhibitions at the Museum of Modern of Modern Art in New York in 1971. Despite a 24-year age gap, the two remained friends until Bearden died in 1988.

Hunt’s sculpture reflects the life of Bearden from the title to the top. Including “Odyssey” in the title alludes to Bearden’s series titled “The Odyssey,” which drew on Homer’s Greek classic.

Sculptor Richard Hunt created "Spiral Odyssey."

“The ‘Odyssey’ in the title refers to Romare Bearden’s series of works that took Homer’s epic poem as a point of inspiration and departure,” Hunt’s artist statement reads. “‘Odyssey’ is also a way to refer to Bearden’s personal journey alone and with others, his peers, his artistic offspring and his world of admirers. ‘Spiral’ in my title has multiple associations. One was (Bearden’s) pivotal role in the joining together of African-American artists in 1963 in New York to share ideas on arts activism in the context of the Civil Rights Movement, the complexities of career development and the art of politics. Also considered in the work is the widening, elevating spiral of Bearden’s multifaceted career which even in its legacy phase continues to ascend.”

Funding for the project amounted to $305,000, which came Mecklenburg County’s ordinance allocating 1 percent of eligible capital improvement project funds for public art. It also included grants from Duke Energy, the Arts & Science Council, the National Endowment for the Arts and North Carolina Arts Council.

“Not only is ‘Spiral Odyssey’ aesthetically remarkable, but it is meaningful to have an artist of Richard Hunt’s stature create a sculpture specifically for Charlotte,” said ASC Vice President of Public Art Carla Hanzal, author of “Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections.” “Richard had the city and Romare Bearden in mind when he created it, which makes it special. His sculpture felt at home the moment it was installed and residents and visitors have responded to that. I believe it will quickly become one of the most beloved public artworks in Charlotte.”


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