The work of an influential African American artist who grew up in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance is coming to Cincinnati. This is the first time in nearly 40 years Romare Bearden's historic Profile series has been reconstituted, and the Cincinnati Art Museum is one of only two places to host the exhibit.
Bearden's collection of autobiographical works spans his life from boyhood in North Carolina through his young adulthood in Harlem in the 1940s. He began the series in the late 1970s following an article written about him in the New Yorker.
"He combines his knowledge of art history and knowledge of African American art as well as the European artistic tradition with references from jazz and contemporary life as well as looking back on African American history," explains Julie Aronson, Cincinnati Art Museum's curator of American paintings, sculpture and drawings.
The pieces in Something Over Something Else were presented in two parts and many later ended up in private collections. The High Museum of Art in Atlanta revived the exhibit in 2019 and Cincinnati is the only other place it will be shown.
Bearden specialized in collage, according to Aronson.
"He had a very inventive way of combining elements cut from newspapers and magazines, and fabric, wallpaper, and combined that with the use of watercolor, colored markers and all sorts of other materials to create these very, very colorful works that bridge figuration and abstraction," she says.
The new exhibit, titled Something Over Something Else: Romare Bearden's Profile Series, is presented alongside short narratives Bearden and friend and writer Albert Murray wrote to accompany each piece. The museum says the texts are intended to "lead viewers through Bearden's story as he wished to share it."
The Cincinnati Art Museum negotiated the opportunity to display the exhibit after it was contacted by the High Museum about including a Bearden work from its collection. The Cincinnati Art Museum acquired Profile/Part I, The Twenties: Pittsburgh Memories, Mill Hand's Lunch Bucket (1978) in 2011.
The exhibit is limited to just two institutions in part because so many of the pieces come from private collections and because of the nature of the collages being susceptible to damage from too much exposure to light.
The exhibit opens Feb. 28 and runs through May 24, 2020.