National Gallery of Art’s “Afro-Atlantic Stories”: An Overview

Photograph courtesy of the National Gallery of Art.

The highly anticipated Afro-Atlantic Stories The exhibition at the National Gallery of Art opened on Sunday and will be on view until July 17.

Spanning five centuries, multiple continents and over 130 works of art, the remarkable exhibition re-examines the historical and cultural experiences of Black and African people told through the stories of the African diaspora and the transatlantic slave trade..

The exhibition travels through time and through the thematic narratives of maps, slavery, daily life, music, portraits and resistance, to reveal the lasting legacy of Afro stories and experiences. -Atlantic. Here is an overview of some of his works:

A Place to Call Home (Africa-America Reflection) (2020) by Hank Willis Thomas. Stainless steel with mirror finish. National Gallery of Art, Firestone Contemporary Art Acquisition Fund. © Hank WillisThomas. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

At Hank Willis Thomas A place to call home (2020) greets visitors at the entrance to the exhibition. A place to call home represents a connected North America and Africa instead of South America. The replacement is about how African Americans navigate their sense of belonging in both places. The mirrored surface also encourages reflection from all onlookers.

in bondage (1936) by Aaron Douglas. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Corcoran Collection (museum purchase and partial gift of Thurlow Evans Tibbs, Jr., The Evans-Tibbs Collection). © 2021 Heirs of Aaron Douglas / Licensed by VAGA to Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

by Aaron Douglas in bondage (1936) is included in a section of the exhibition devoted to the horrors of slavery and the immense struggles for emancipation. in bondage is a moving portrait of enslaved Africans making their way to the Americas. The somber artwork seems to communicate glimpses of hope as a woman raises her hands skyward and a man gazes up at the Pole Star in a powerful stance.

Zeferina (2018) by Dalton Paula. Oil on canvas. Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand Collection, Gift of the artist, as part of the Histoires afro-atlantiques exhibition, 2018. © Dalton Paula.

At Dalton Paula’s Zeferina (2018) was commissioned for the original exhibition presented at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo and portrays an influential leader of a slave rebellion who was convicted before being recognized for her efforts. Since Zeferina’s face was never recorded, Paula must have fully imagined her appearance and deliberately left her earrings unfinished to signify her indefinite legacy.

Ntozahke II, (Parktown) (2016) by Zanele Muholi. Photographic wallpaper from a digital file. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad fonds. © Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of the artist, Yancey Richardson, New York, and Stevenson CapeTown / Johannesburg.

At Zanele Muholi Ntozahke II (2016) is a striking self-portrait in which the artist imitates the Statue of Liberty in a draped cloth garment and hair donuts that form a crown, with a gaze into the distance. The National Gallery received a digital file of the work and allowed the image to be presented at any size. The curators chose to display Muholi’s mural at a whopping 12ft tall to accentuate the piece’s powerful commentary on freedom.

Poder figure (2016-2020) by Daniel Lind-Ramos. Mirrors, concrete blocks, bag of cement, mace, bag of building stones, bucket of paint, wood panels, palm trunk, burlap, leather, strings, sequin, awning, plastic strings, fabric, trumpet, pins, tape, maracas, sneakers, tambourine, work gloves, boxing gloves, acrylic. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New Century Fund. 2022.6.1. © Daniel Lind-Ramos.

The last room of the exhibition presents articles of resistance and activism from all over the Black Atlantic. by Daniel Lind Ramos Poder figure (2016-2020) is made up of a collection of common materials found in the Afro-Puerto Rican community of Lind-Ramos in Loíza. Everyday objects evoke carnival traditions, music, sports and other elements of community life as a site of cultural resistance through this distinctly dynamic sculpture.

More information about the exhibition and the program can be found in line.

carmen honker

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