Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power

Exhibition Website

Nov 9 2019 - Mar 8 2020

During the rise of the Black Power movement, many Black artists were asking fundamental questions about their role: Should a work of art communicate a direct political message? Could it be abstract? What audience should be addressed? Is there a ‘Black art’ or a ‘Black aesthetic’?

Soul of a Nation—organized by the Tate Modern — is a look at how American culture was reshaped through the work of Black artists during the tumultuous 1960s, ‘70s, and early ‘80s. The exhibition features more than 150 artworks, beginning with works by the Spiral group, a New York-based collective who opened up questions of the role of artists in the Civil Rights movement. From there, the exhibition traces the impact of the growing Black Power movement on Black artists, and explores the many ways these artists worked to protest discrimination, rally people to their cause, and celebrate Black culture.

This landmark exhibition features artworks by more than 60 Black artists, including Romare Bearden, Melvin Edwards, Betye Saar, Faith Ringgold, Charles White, Alvin Loving, Alma Thomas, and William T. Williams.

Some artists, galvanized by the spirit of the civil rights movement, created images that spoke of solidarity, strength, and resistance, while others focused primarily on color, form, and concept. Some works paid homage to legendary African American figures from the period, including political leaders Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Angela Davis, musician John Coltrane, and sports hero Jack Johnson. The variety of artworks reflects the many viewpoints of artists and collectives at work during these explosive times.

Crystal Bridges is one of only two American venues to host this important exhibition, described as both powerful, and at times, challenging. Following its debut in Bentonville, the exhibition travels to the Brooklyn Museum in New York.

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website
Image: Barkley Hendricks (American, 1945-2017) Blood, (Donald Formey) 1975. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 72 x 590.5 in. Courtesy of Dr. Kenneth Montague | The Wedge Connection, Toronto © Estate of Barkeley Hendricks. Courtesy of the artist’s estate and Lack Shainman Gallery, New York. (Photo: Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum) 
  • Various Media
  • American
  • 20th Century
  • Ethnic / Gender
  • Romare Bearden
  • Melvin Edwards
  • Betye Saar
  • Faith Ringgold
  • Charles White
  • Alvin Loving
  • Alma Thomas
  • and others

Exhibition Venues & Dates