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Historic Exhibition of Black Abstract Artists on Display at Zuccaire Gallery

“5+1” exhibition opening, 1969. Photograph by Adger Cowans. © Adger Cowans.

“Revisiting 5+1” features work by the six artists in the 1969 exhibition (curated by and including artist Frank Bowling) each of whom created vivid experimental abstract paintings and sculptures. Alongside Bowling, the show presents major work by Melvin Edwards, Daniel LaRue Johnson, Al Loving, Jack Whitten and William T. Williams, showcasing their early practices of the 1960s and 1970s. In collaboration with Distinguished Professor of Art Howardena Pindell, “Revisiting 5+1″ adds a related yet distinct group of six Black women artists, who were also trailblazers in abstraction. Alongside Pindell, the exhibition features works by Vivian Browne, Mary Lovelace O’Neal, Betye Saar, Alma Thomas and Mildred Thompson, including a never before shown 1971 film by Saar.

“Revisiting 5+1” provides new insight into the significance of the dynamic university context, demonstrating the important history of university-based exhibitions organized by Black artists. At a time when Black artists working in abstraction encountered barriers in both the White mainstream art world, which valued works in abstraction but not those by Black artists, and the Black Arts Movement, which rejected abstract art as apolitical, university galleries provided a unique platform outside the confines of the mainstream art world for engaging with ongoing debates around the relation between art and racial politics.

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