Installation view of Generations: A History of Black Abstract Art. Photo by Mitro Hood.
Installation view of Generations: A History of Black Abstract Art. Photo by Mitro Hood.
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Artists include Kevin Beasley, Mark Bradford, Norman Lewis, Lorna Simpson, Alma Thomas, Jack Whitten, and many others

BALTIMORE, MD (UPDATED August 15, 2019)—The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) presents Generations: A History of Black Abstract Art, an exhibition that captures the significant contributions that black artists have made to the development of abstraction from the 1940s to the present. On view September 29, 2019, through January 19, 2020, Generations explores the multifaceted power of abstract art as experimental practice, personal exploration, and profound political choice for decades of black artists. The exhibition features more than 70 paintings, sculptures, and mixed-media installations by such notable artists as Kevin Beasley, Mark Bradford, Sam Gilliam, Jennie C. Jones, Norman Lewis, Lorna Simpson, and Alma W. Thomas. The exhibition is curated by Christopher Bedford, BMA Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director, and Katy Siegel, BMA Senior Research & Programming Curator and Thaw Chair of Modern Art at Stony Brook University. The exhibition is co-organized by the BMA and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

Generations is a ticketed exhibition with a free opening celebration sponsored by CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, as well as free admission on the October 26–27 and November 23–24 weekends sponsored by Bank of America.

Drawing on the extensive collection of Pamela J. Joyner and Alfred J. Giuffrida, which is recognized for its unparalleled holdings of works by historic and contemporary black artists, Generations builds on the previously touring Solidary & Solitary exhibition, doubling the show’s scale and scope in the BMA’s expansive galleries with new works from The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection, as well as select objects from the museum’s contemporary collection. The exhibition highlights unexpected resonances and important distinctions between artists, across time and geographic contexts. In addition to in-depth presentations of work by Norman Lewis, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, and Charles Gaines, Generations provides visitors with in-depth explorations of the work of Alma W. Thomas and Jack Whitten, as well as a broader selection of dialogues that juxtapose works between such artists as Gary Simmons and Lorna Simpson, Melvin Edwards and Leonardo Drew, and Kevin Beasley and Shinique Smith. These pairings are supported by thematic groupings with landmark works by Frank Bowling, Al Loving, Julie Mehretu, Joe Overstreet, and Virginia Jaramillo that emphasize the different processes and materials used in abstraction and how the definition of painting has expanded

“We find ourselves today in an important moment of cultural reckoning—one in which it is imperative for institutions like the BMA to re-examine the histories of art and to tell a truer and more multidimensional story. In working with the visionary Joyner/Giuffrida Collection, as well as the BMA’s own growing collection, we have an extraordinary opportunity to expand perceptions of what contemporary art was and can be, and celebrate the spectrum and brilliance of artists who have redefined and given depth to abstract art into the present day,” said Siegel. “With this expanded version of the exhibition, we are excited to dive deeper into the material dialogues within and across the work of the featured artists, introducing new audiences to their visions and practices.”  

The opening of Generations will follow the BMA’s re-conceptualization of its contemporary galleries, in a presentation titled Every Day: Selections from the Collection. The reinstallation highlights major works and several new acquisitions by such visionary artists as Howardena Pindell, David Hammons, Kara Walker, Nari Ward, and Jack Whitten, placing black artistic achievement at the center of a thematic overview of modern and contemporary art. This initiative underscores the BMA’s commitment to collecting and presenting the work of artists that have typically been underrepresented in major institutions and exhibitions.

“The presentation of Generations is part of a broader vision to reshape the idea of the museum—who it belongs to and whom it represents. This effort occurs across our special exhibitions, collecting, and public programs. In this way, we can recognize historical shortcomings, and provide our audiences with a richer, more vibrant, and dynamic picture of art—one that speaks to different communities, perspectives, and realities,” said Christopher Bedford, BMA Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director. “We are very much looking forward to our upcoming exhibitions and to the important conversations they may spur.” 

Tickets are available through and at the BMA Box Office beginning August 29. Prices are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $7 for groups of 10 or more, and $5 for students with ID and youth ages 7 and older. Free admission is offered on opening day Sunday, September 29, sponsored by CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, and on the weekends of October 26–27 and November 23–24, sponsored by Bank of America.  BMA Members and children age 6 and under are always admitted free. For more information, call 443-573-1701. 

The companion publication, Four Generations: The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection of Abstract Art, is also being expanded and reprinted by Gregory R. Miller & Co. It is edited by Courtney J. Martin, Director of the Yale Center for British Art, and features new research and writing from curators at some of the world’s leading institutions. 

Organization and Sponsors
Generations: A History of Black Abstract Art is presented by The Helis Foundation and organized by The Baltimore Museum of Art and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Contributing sponsorship is provided by The Lambent Foundation and The Holt Family Foundation. The presentation in Baltimore is generously sponsored by The Alvin and Fanny B. Thalheimer Exhibition Endowment Fund, The Ford Foundation, Suzanne F. Cohen Exhibition Fund, The Dorman/Mazaroff Contemporary Endowment Fund, Bank of America, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, and Sotheby’s. Fall programming is generously sponsored by Camden Partners.

Solidary & Solitary has been presented at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, LA; Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham, NC; Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN; and the David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago, IL. It will travel to the Perez Art Museum in Miami, FL, following the BMA’s presentation.

About the Baltimore Museum of Art

Founded in 1914, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) inspires people of all ages and backgrounds through exhibitions, programs, and collections that tell an expansive story of art—challenging long-held narratives and embracing new voices. Our outstanding collection of more than 97,000 objects spans many eras and cultures and includes the world’s largest public holding of works by Henri Matisse; one of the nation’s finest collections of prints, drawings, and photographs; and a rapidly growing number of works by contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds. The museum is also distinguished by a neoclassical building designed by American architect John Russell Pope and two beautifully landscaped gardens featuring an array of modern and contemporary sculpture. The BMA is located three miles north of the Inner Harbor, adjacent to the main campus of Johns Hopkins University, and has a community branch at Lexington Market. General admission is free so that everyone can enjoy the power of art.

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