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Romare Bearden's Mint Museum exhibit tells story of collage
Collection is part of "Under Construction" display
Published Thursday, December 6, 2018 4:47 am
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

"Of the Blues: Carolina Shout" (1974) by Charlotte artist Romare Bearden is part of the Under Construction exhibit at the Mint Museum Uptown.

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Romare Bearden told stories through collage.

While the Mint Museum Uptown’s Romare Bearden Gallery houses works by the Charlotte native, his role in revitalizing collage is explored in “Under Construction: Collage From the Mint Museum.” Now on view at the Mint Museum Uptown, the exhibit is the first of its kind at the site.

The exhibit is broken up into sections, such as “New Narratives,” which examines the role of the art form as a source of storytelling.

“Collage earlier in the 20th century was often even more abstract or used for different purposes, but not to kind of tell a narrative—that was what normal figurative painting was for,” said Mint Senior Curator of American, Modern and Contemporary Art Jonathan Stuhlman. “Bearden uses collage in really interesting ways in his work to greater and lesser extents.”
Some of Bearden’s pieces rely more on painting than collage.

“Some of them have much more painting, and the collage is very subtle—the way that the elements are worked in,” Stuhlman said.

Curating the exhibit caused Stuhlman to consider Bearden’s work in terms of how it was made, as well as the tools used.

“If you look at ‘Evening of the Gray Cat,’  [1982] for example, you can see all of the different ways that he is bringing elements into his collage,” Stuhlman said. “He is not just taking all of the elements from a newspaper or a magazine. Some of them are, but he is taking just a pattern piece of paper to stand in for a rug.

“You can see that he has an image of a brush that is a photograph of brush, probably from a magazine somewhere, but then the bottle next to it is just a painted piece of paper. It’s a brown piece of paper that he has cut into a piece of paper and drawn on, and that becomes the jug. Some of the faces have eyes that are cut and put into them. Others are just the outlines. He is really bringing a wide range of approaches into his collages.”

Each additional layer helps tell the story.

“Telling stories, creating environments, holds true for most of the work in this section,” Stuhlman said. “It is all about that narrative.”

Bearden’s 1961 “Untitled” piece of ink and mixed media collage resides in the “Abstraction” portion of the exhibit.

“It’s looking back to Cubism with palette of blacks and whites and browns and grays, and the structure of it all,” Stuhlman said. “He has this one little strip of red there in the lower right corner. If that wasn’t there, it might perhaps be a much duller thing, but that little strip of red brings it to life. It’s nice to have a Bearden in this part of the show as well. We don’t normally think of Bearden as an abstract artist.”

Other parts of the exhibit include Other Mediums and New Directions. Lillian Blades’ 2016 works “Windows of Reflection” and “Sun and Water” are featured in New Directions.

Stuhlman saw her work at the Harvey B. Gantt Center last year, and decided to include her in “Under Construction.”

“We just loved her work so much that I thought she would be great to include,” Stuhlman said.  


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