Across the country institutions large and small, art-specific and otherwise, are celebrating the Romare Bearden centennial year. There’s a reason for this. In Bearden’s embracing art all borders are down — between personal and universal, town and country, history and myth. Africa, Europe and the Americas too are borderless. Bearden is artist in chief of the modern cosmopolis, griot in residence of the global village. All hail.
That’s what New York City is doing in a series of exhibitions. Among those up and running there’s a succinct Bearden display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; a more expansive one at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a Harlem branch of the New York Public Library; and, best of all, a sparkling cross-generational Bearden shout-out at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Bearden was born in North Carolina in 1911, spent part of his childhood among the steel mills of Pittsburgh and matured as an artist in Manhattan during the Harlem Renaissance. He was fortunate in being part of a culturally alert family, in getting a multilayered education and in having talents that extended beyond art to writing (he was a notable jazz lyricist) and social organizing (he became a founder of the Studio Museum).
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