Some of the best moments in Afro-Atlantic stories at MFAH

The legacy of the transatlantic slave trade is at the center of a groundbreaking exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. Afro-Atlantic Stories traveled from the Museu de Art de São Paulo in Brazil and came to the United States via curator Kanitra Fletcher, on behalf of the MFAH and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. Divided into six thematic sections and accompanied by a publication named one of the best art books of 2021, the exhibition explores the geographic and cultural intersections between Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean and Europe.

Here are some of his highlights:

Maxwell Alexander, Éramos as cinzas e agora somos o fogo, da serie Pardo é papel (We were the ashes and now we are the fire, from the series Brown Is Paper), 2018

Immediately after a family portrait by an Afro-Cuban artist Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, this great fresco of Alexander Maxwell really sets the mood of the show. It hangs just outside the main gallery and scale towers. The work is also very delicate, as it is done on brown paper with folds that look like quilted pockets and weaves together various scenes of revolution, from protesters overturning police cars to slave rebellions and freedom celebrations. in Brazil.

Hank WillisThomas, A Place to Call Home (Africa-America Reflection), 2020

Later in the “Maps and Margins” section, several works deal with the architecture and conditions of the slave ships that made the brutal journey of the Middle Passage. This fictional map made of mirrors (literally) reflects the divide between North America and Africa but brings the continents together. Artist Hank Willis Thomas suggests both the formal similarities between the continents and the cultural detachment from Africa that black Americans experience as a result of the slave trade.

Ernest Crichlow, Harriet Tubman, 1953

Although created 40 years after her death, this portrait of Harriet Tubman by Harlem Renaissance painter Ernest Crichlow is beautiful and inspiring. It’s a gold-framed vision of one of history‘s most influential abolitionists. The “Emancipations” section also includes a magnificent suite of prints by Glenn Ligon, as well as works by Arthur Jaffa and Kara Walker.

Benny Andrews, Harlem USA (Migrants Series), 2004

Benny Andrews is known for collages of fabrics onto his canvases to add dimension to his compositions. This work visualizes everyday life in Harlem and captures the neighborhood merchants and families who moved to the city as part of the Great Migration, the mass movement of black people from 1910 to the 1970s. This one demands close examination. .

Victoria Santa Cruz, Me gritaron negra (They shouted me black), 1978

The voice of the Afro-Peruvian activist and choreographer Victoria Santa Cruz resonates in the “Resistance and activism” section of the exhibition. A video monitor plays footage of a gripping performance she put on about navigating racism in South America. Nearby hangs a Pan-African flag by David Hammons and a small sculpture by Elizabeth Catlett.

LAST CHANCE: Afro-Atlantic Histories is open at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston until January 17 and is included with general admission. The museum will be open Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 a.m., Friday, Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday from 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., and Martin Luther King Jr. Day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit here.

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