On Thursday, March 19, the Museum hosted an opening reception and lecture for our current exhibition History Refused to Die: Alabama’s African-American Self-Taught Artists in Context. The exhibition was organized by the MMFA in collaboration with the Alabama Center for Contemporary Art in Mobile, the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, and Tinwood, LLC, in Atlanta, Georgia.
The artists featured in this exhibition all worked in Alabama in the mid to late- twentieth century, and, with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March, it seemed there would never be a more appropriate time to present these works for Alabama audiences. A book published by Tinwood, LLC, also entitled History Refused to Die, documents the works and the theme of the project as a whole: an examination of the history of African-Americans in the state as seen through the eyes of these extraordinary artists. (Pictured at left: Louisiana Bendolph, collector Bill Arnett, Thornton Dial, Sr. and Richard Dial)
Guests at the opening on Thursday evening had the rare pleasure of greeting six of the fifteen artists whose works are on view. They included Thornton Dial, Sr., his son Richard Dial, Charlie Lucas, Lonnie Holly, Joe Minter (at right), and quilt maker Louisiana Bendolph. It was a poignant moment in the history of Alabama art, since many of these artists are advanced in years, and, while their artwork has previously been exhibited in museums around the United States and overseas, they had never seen their art installed in an Alabama museum. This powerful and moving art reflects the larger context of the history of African-American culture in Alabama and the South, from slavery in the nineteenth century, to the migration from rural to urban centers in the twentieth century. Using non-traditional materials such as metals, plastics, organic or plant-based material, these works bridge the gap between daily life and the world of art—demonstrating a profound respect for the process we today call “recycling,” but that the artists see as a means to link the present with a vibrant past.
The Museum will be hosting a number of programs in conjunction with this exhibition including talks by Loyd Howard on Thursday, April 2, and a special audio-visual presentation by Randall Williams on Thursday, April 23. We invite you to review all the programs listed in the calendar on the website, or call 244-4333 for more information. Don’t miss this outstanding exhibition, and all the thought-provoking programs associated with it. (Shown above: Curator Margaret Lynne Ausfeld, Charlie Lucas, and Museum Director Mark Johnson; Lonnie Holley talking with Joe Minter.)
Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Art