Hidden Gems: AUC Faculty + Staff Exhibition
September 21, 2023 – December 8, 2023
Museums play diverse roles, and those affiliated with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are crucial for preserving and showcasing the global contributions of Black visual artists. The Clark Atlanta University Art Museum, rooted in the histories of Atlanta University and Clark College, and the Atlanta University Center's evolution, exemplifies this. Initiated by Hale Woodruff, the first art teacher at Atlanta University, the Atlanta Art Annuals, held from 1942 to 1970, formed a platform for artists nationwide. The Atlanta University Center, founded in 1929 by John Hope, is the longest continuous consortium of African-American higher education institutions. This exhibit honors the legacy, fostering a community of Black artists, connecting with the AUC's visual arts programs and the AUC Art Collective, echoing the rich creativity of the faculty and staff within CAU, Morehouse, and Spelman—a hidden gem within the AUC community.
The Audacious Platform
October 28, 2022 – December 8, 2023
The Audacious Platform foregrounds the significance of Clark Atlanta University as a site for the display and critical examination of African American art from the forties until the present. A limited survey of the permanent collection, it includes works acquired during the Atlanta Annuals (1942-1970), which was an ambitious and surprisingly bold endeavor that emphasized African American art in an era when black art was rarely considered in mainstream institutions. The works from the Annuals are contrasted with later acquired pieces that provide insight into the institution’s presentation of African diaspora art from the American and Global South.
From Black Spring to the Eternal
October 28, 2022 – December 8, 2023
Inspired by Charles Alston’s 1962 painting Black Spring and a work from David Driskell’s Young Pines series, this exhibition highlights depictions of natural scenery and their metaphorical implications from the permanent collection. Ranging from visual commentaries about sociopolitical issues to the idea of transcendence, these works, which were created from 1905 to 2015, encourage reflection on the ways African American artists engage rural, urban, and cosmic landscapes to convey ideas about their place within society. It also draws attention to explorations of humanity in relation to spiritual and celestial realms.
Wilay Mendez Paez: Portals to a New World
October 6, 2019 - December 8, 2023
Wilay Mendez Paez: Portals to a New World provides insight into the artistic practice of the Atlanta-based, Afro-Cuban artist. Wilay is the inaugural fellow for The Workshop, a multi-year Clark Atlanta University Art Museum initiative that seeks to close the distance between artist and audience by highlighting the steps fundamental to the creative process. The artist will conduct a series of public workshops illustrating the role of writing, sketching, and modeling in his work. He will also expand an existing project that uses sculpture rather than face covers to give visual form to masks as a broad concept. Masks, for Wilay, are more than a form of disguise and ornamentation. His sculptures, similar to performances in costumes in African and African Diaspora masquerades, draw attention to objects as conduits for reflection about social interactions. They conceal, protect, and serve as a site for developing new vantage points.
The exhibition includes drawings, collages, and sculptures that show how Wilay moves from a vague, not fully formed idea to the realization of a material object. His drawings experiment with bold lines and color contrasts before serving as the basis for his sculptures. His collages carefully combine fragments of ruined buildings, debris from car wrecks, and pages of old books with fine lines, paint, and, at times, shading from burn marks. Inspired by urban decay and decline, this body of work shows how discarded materials can be recuperated for use in a new context. Damaged and cast-off things, therefore, become a gateway, or portal, to a world of possibilities.
This project was made possible with funding support from the City of Atlanta/Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs and the Institute for Museum and Library Services.