The exhibition currently on view at the Taft Museum of Art, The Chemistry of Color: The Sorgenti Collection of African American Art, highlights some of the key artists in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts — Saar, Faith Ringgold, Howerdina Pindell, Sam Gilliam, Beverly Buchanan and Romare Bearden, as well as artist Jacob Lawrence himself.
Usually, museum exhibitions of “African-American Art” (or of “Women’s Art,” or of any other so-called minority’s art) make me roll my eyes and stamp my feet. There is something ghettoizing — separating — about such exhibitions that defeats any high-minded purpose. And yet, The Chemistry of Color left me feeling rather the opposite.
The range of work is broad, but the time period is narrow — from about 1979-1991. Rather than clamoring “This is African American Art” — even thought some of the Taft literature does actually claim that — the exhibition illustrates what was missing in art museums until very recently. Putting the work together here does more to make us gasp at the things that we never would have seen in a museum of American Art 20 years ago. A hideous omission to us now, a blind spot then.
The artwork itself is first-rate. On view through Nov. 1. Read a review here.