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Resounding Memories

Presentation by Smith Shaw "Resounding Memories: Romare Bearden, Echoes of the Past and the Sound Box" in the framework of the Art History Seminar (58-60 Galernaya Street).

This paper focuses on the art of Romare Bearden (1911-1988) who was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, but moved early in his life to the North living in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and New York City. As an undergraduate  he created political cartoons at NYU and remained socially engaged through his art and participation in the Harlem Renaissance where he sought to illustrate "Negro life" as he described it and saw it and experienced it.  But it was his discovery of the hybrid identity represented in the collage form during the 1950s after a six month visit  in Paris that he truly found his visual language with its ruptures and mixings of memories which constituted his views of "Negro life." Bearden eventually became recognized as not simply a great African-American artist, but as one of the premier artists of the twentieth century.  This paper, using what we might call "sonic theory," will examine how his collages and other aspects of his visual works reflect his intense interest in music (including gospel music, jazz and the blues), as well as the gritty street sounds of life in the city and  the lilting sounds of his vacation home on the island of Saint Martin in the Caribbean. This transformative acoustical approach allows us to see/hear a new kind of vernacular modernism which was initially resisted because it countered the canonical norms of so-called modernist purity in terms of aesthetics, race, and identity.

29 may

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