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Collage master Romare Bearden's tapestries at Bechtler exhibit
Charlotte artist's works alongside Picasso
Published Thursday, April 4, 2019 4:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Romare Bearden's “Mille Fluers (A Thousand Flowers).”

When you think tapestry, you may not think Romare Bearden.

Nevertheless, you will find him in “Nomadic Murals: Tapestries of the Modern Era,” which opens April 5 at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, and runs through Dec. 1.

“Romare Bearden was one of the titans of modernism in the second half of the 20th century,” said Bechtler President and CEO John Boyer, who curated the exhibit. “Charlotte is so fortunate to be able to call him one of our own.”

Two works by the Charlotte native reside among over 40 tapestries from artists such as Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Roy Lichtenstein, Rene Magritte, Robert Motherwell, Frank Stella, as well as two works by the museum’s architect, Mario Botta.

“These were works that were meant to be lived with,” Boyer said.

Bearden created “Recollection Pond” in the 1970s. It is a 61 x 79-inch wool Aubusson tapestry.

“In this exhibition, we get to see the two different aspects of Bearden,” Boyer said. “First, as a fabulous abstract, powerfully colorful and reflective artist in ‘Recollection Pond,’ which was specifically commissioned by Gloria Ross, one of the great supporters of tapestry at the end of the 20th, beginning of the 21st century. The maquette, the original drawing for this tapestry, is in fact in the collection today of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, underscoring the importance of not only Romare Bearden’s work, but Bearden’s interest in tapestry.”

“Mille Fluers (A Thousand Flowers)” is also on view in the exhibit. The 59 ½ x 67 ¾-inch tapestry was made in 1976.

“The other tapestry that we have reminds us that his interests in the arts go back to the most traditional of subject matter—a still-life of flowers,” Boyer said. “They are as much [of a] fascination to him as any of the other works that h produced, with all of their social commentary, they familial affections, their urban setting—he was an artist in every sense of the word, but at his core, too, he fell in love with the landscape, and he also fell in love with still-life. We get to see both of those here.”

Boyer noted the need to understand the artists in “Nomadic Murals” on multiple levels, when it came to how they treated other mediums.

“Bearden’s knowing that he was going to be producing a design that would end up being fabricated as a tapestry, one could argue that you see a certain simplification of form, and line, even as there is a bolder quality of color and contrasting color in the composition,” Boyer said.

Part of the maquette for “Recollection Pond” is collage, a typical trend in Bearden’s work.

“You get a sense of that quality in the tapestry, and yet he knew from the beginning, the tapestry would be completely flat in its surface,” Boyer said. “He had to make sure that he came up with a design that would echo the powerful quality of overlapping forms, and their creation of a deeper space, that he would find so easy to do in collage. It is part of that challenge that the artist recognizes, ‘I’m going to design something that is going to end up in a medium, over which I have no control.’”

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