Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition
The Phillips Collection is offering a virtual tour of Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition.
Works by African American artists of the 20th and 21st centuries together with examples by the early 20th century European artists with whom they engaged are explored. Romare Bearden, Robert Colescott, Renee Cox, Wassily Kandinsky, Norman Lewis, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Faith Ringgold, Hank Willis Thomas, and Carrie Mae Weems are among the featured artists.
African American artists have interrogated and immersed themselves in European modernist art since its rise to prominence in the early 20th century. This period also saw a critical growth of professional African American artists, many of whom engaged modernist styles and sensibilities as they claimed the power to represent and define themselves, their histories, and their cultures. In the early part of the century, African American artists were nourished by the advances of Post-Impressionist, Cubist, and expressionist art.
They contributed to modernism’s new languages of form, liberated use of color, and complex engagement with the arts of Africa. But in later years, artists began challenging master narratives. Using humor and satire, they created “riffs” to question the supposed superiority of European art, exposing its fraught association with people of color. The push and pull of these relationships became a distinct tradition in African American artistic practice.
The African American and European artists in this exhibition have engaged modernism in different time periods and varied artistic and social contexts. These paintings, sculptures, photographs, and works on paper enhance the story of modern and contemporary American art by presenting compelling works born of these riffs and relations.
Enjoy a gallery-by-gallery tour of Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition here.