January 5, 1997

Explorations in the City of Light: African-American Artists in Paris, 1945 - 1965, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

Explorations in the City of Light: African-American Artists in Paris, 1945 - 1965
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
January 12 - March 23, 1997

Marla Price, Director of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth announced that the museum will be the only Southwest venue for Explorations in the City of Light: African-American Artists in Paris, 1945 - 1965. Organized by The Studio Museum in Harlem, this exhibition examines the importance of Paris (the City of Light) as an artistic mecca for African-American artists in the years following World War II and continues the Studio Museum's mission to conduct scholarship in previously unexplored areas of African-American artists' experience. Explorations in the City of Light showcases the work of seven African-American artists whose imagery, styles and philosophies were shaped by their experience in postwar Paris: Edward Clark, Harold Cousins, Beauford Delaney, Herbert Gentry, Lois Mailou Jones, Larry Potter and Barbara Chase-Riboud.

Following the war, Paris—known as the City of Light for its intellectual enlightenment, gleaming beauty and the quality of its natural light—became a seminal destination for a diverse group of artists, writers and musicians. African-American artists enjoyed acceptance in diverse Paris and embraced the historic and visual stimulation of the city. Featuring over sixty paintings and sculpture, Explorations in the City of Light presents the rich work of African-American artists that resulted from their encounters with the unique beauty and creative forces found in postwar Paris.

African-Americans who wished to pursue an art education in the United States following World War II often encountered difficulties caused by racial segregation. Few prestigious art schools accepted African-American students, and study abroad was seen as an important prerequisite for success. Although the desire to escape discrimination was a significant factor in the African-American artists' sojourn in Paris, several post-WWII artists have said that their primary goal was a quest for artistic freedom and a need to experience modernism firsthand.

Kinshasha Holman Conwill, Director of The Studio Museum in Harlem, explains the premise of the Explorations in the City of Light project: "Past exhibitions have dealt with the subject of the expatriate experience of African-American artists in Europe during the nineteenth and twentieth century. None, however, has concentrated on this specific period, nor with this fascinating group of artists." The seven African-American artists featured in Explorations in the City of Light received significant critical attention while in Paris and have influenced subsequent generations of artists working in America. The power and diversity of creative expression evident in their art continues to inspire others. The endurance of these qualities confirms the significance of their artistic careers that were cultivated in the City of Light. 

A major catalogue containing over 100 illustrations accompanies the exhibition. Essayists for the catalogue are Valerie J. Mercer, Curator of the exhibition and Curator of Collections at The Studio Museum in Harlem, Catherine Bernard, Peter Selz and Michael Fabre. Also included is an introduction by Kinshasha Holman Conwill and a foreword by Geoffrey C. Bible, Chairman and C.E.O. of Philip Morris Companies Inc. 

Biographical information of the artists featured in the exhibition:

EDWARD CLARK

1926 Born in New Orleans, Louisiana
1947-1951 Studies at the Chicago Art Institute
1952 Travels to Paris, studies at L'Académie de la Grande Chaumière, under the GI Bill. Remains in Paris, continues to paint and exhibit
1956 Goes to New York, becomes member of the Tenth Street art scene
1966 Returns to Paris, begins to experiment with the ellipse form in his art
1969 Returns to the United States where he continues to reside, but spends summers in Paris

HAROLD COUSINS

1916 Born in Washington, D.C.
1947 Receives BFA from Howard University, Washington, D. C.
1948 Studies at the Art Students League, New York
1949 Arrives in Paris, studies at L'Académie de la Grande Chaumière
1952 Exhibits in Paris, New York, Toronto and other European cities
1967 Leaves Paris to live in Brussels, Belgium. Continues to work and exhibit
1992 Dies in Brussels

BEAUFORD DELANEY

1901 Born in Knoxville, Tennessee
1918 Moves to Boston at the age of 17
Studies at the Massachusetts Normal Art School, the South Boston School of Art and the Copley School of Art
1929 Arrives in New York where his work is exhibited at various galleries, Meets Henry Miller who writes about Delaney's art
1953 Arrives in Paris where he exhibits his work steadily at various galleries
1978 Retrospective exhibition at The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York
1979 Dies in Paris

HERBERT GENTRY

1919 Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1938-1939 Participates in WPA Program
1940-1942 Attends New York University
1946 Arrives in Paris
1946-1949 Studies at L'Ecole des Hautes Etudes and L'Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Paris, under the GI Bill
1948 Opens club, Chew Honey, frequented by artists and musicians
1952 Returns to the United States
1954 Returns to Paris, then moves to Malmo, Sweden
Present Divides time between Malmo, Paris and the United States

LOIS MAILOU-JONES

1905 Born in Boston, Massachusetts
1923-1927 Studies at Boston Museum School of Fine Arts
1930 Joins faculty of Howard University as a professor of design and watercolor painting
1937-1938 Makes first trip to Paris to study at the Académie Julian
1953 Marries Louis Vergniaud Pierre-Noel, well-known Haitian artist
1954 Is guest professor at Centre d'Art and Foyer des Arts Plastiques, Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Present Returns to Paris annually; continues to exhibit in Paris, Haiti U.S.

LARRY POTTER

1925 Born in Mount Vernon, New York
1945-1950 Studies at Cooper Union and later at the Art Students League, N.Y.
1956 Travels to Paris where he paints and exhibits art
1966 Dies in Paris

BARBARA CHASE-RIBOUD

1939 Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1957 Receives her BFA from Tyler School of Art, Temple University
1960 Receives her MFA from Yale University
1961 Arrives in Paris
Present Continues to reside in Paris, exhibits in Europe and the United States

The exhibition is organized by The Studio Museum in Harlem. Following its premiere at the Studio Museum in January 1996, Explorations in the City of Light: African-American Artists in Paris, 1945 - 1965 began a four-city tour of the United States. 

MODERN ART MUSEUM OF FORT WORTH
Fort Worth's Cultural District
www.mamfw.org

Updated 23.06.2019