Romare Bearden “Profile/Part II, The Thirties: Artist with Painting & Model,” 1981 collage on fiberboard.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta.
The Poetry Project
The Poets Play Bearden
Curated by Opal Moore
This issue of The Art Section presents poets in “play” with selected works in Romare Bearden’s Profile Series: “Something Over Something Else”, a series of works that reference the artist’s early life in the South, and later in Pittsburgh. I am sure that Romare would approve the idea of poets coming into conversation with him. He loved talk, the exchange of ideas, intellectual sparring, and the juxtaposition of things not alike. His insistence that friend and scholar Albert Murray provide the tags for this series of paintings reveals how important it was to Bearden to include another point of view, a different kind of decision-making process, in the presentation of these works. The featured poets Melba Joyce Boyd, Jericho Brown, Felton Eaddy, Sharan Strange, Frank X Walker and Rachel Eliza Griffiths, were invited to take Bearden’s images and make something else to lay across Bearden’s something.
“Putting something over something else” was Bearden’s modest description of his creative process. Layering—building up and tearing away— could apply to more than the work of the collagist.
The High Museum’s exhibition of Romare Bearden’s Profile Series (September 14 – Feb, 2, 2020) offered an opportunity for poets whose lives bridge the 20th and the 21st century (as it has revealed itself thus far) to respond to Bearden’s call: that viewers add our imaginations to his creations; to “see not with our eyes, but through our eyes.” Perhaps, the ekphrastic tradition of poetry is just for this—to permit a work of art to live and speak beyond its first language. Through the imaginations and the eyes of poets who live in a world materially and socially different from the artist’s, Romare Bearden’s paintings continue to accumulate voice, texture and depth, reverberating beyond the coolness of the gallery space, like a poem in noisy and boisterous performance.
Robert O’Meally, the co-curator of the High Museum’s Bearden exhibition, offered the opinion that this exhibit “makes clear that writing is a visual art.” His claim might surprise some and appear obvious to others. The Poetry Project: Poets Play Bearden presents the works of these exciting and accomplished poets in all their visual brilliance and vocal difference as they see Bearden and his world through their eyes. The Art Section: An Online Journal of Art and Cultural Commentary serves to help liberate art from our static habits of consumption to enjoy greater bandwidth in our lives and languages.
This Program was funded by the Fulton County Arts Council