September 14 - October 29, 2016 
Opening Reception: Wednesday September 14, 6:00 - 8:00pm 

There is no denying the formal achievement of Modern art. Some see a simultaneous loss of effective social commentary as Modernism advanced through the various abstractionists’ adventures in painting and sculpture. The works of certain mid 20th Century African American artists, such as Elizabeth Catlett and Benny Andrews, contradict this notion. These artists utilized the formal strength of modernism to advance and articulate their strong socio-political views. Despite their powerful blending of abstract expression and representational content, both artists were ignored or openly discouraged by the art world establishment. Catlett was forced to leave the United States in order to voice her political beliefs and Andrews was discouraged by his dealer from depicting black themes. Without hesitation, these two artists demonstrated a determination and capacity to address the substance of a people. They each asserted the validity of their own lives and the humanity around them, communicating a spiritual dignity that still resonates today. We feel fortunate and proud to have the opportunity to present the paintings of Benny Andrews and the sculpture of Elizabeth Catlett, two modern masters, to our audience.

Elizabeth Catlett & Benny Andrews is presented in celebration of the Grand Opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The NMAAHC is the 19th museum of the Smithsonian Institution and is located at the foot of the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The museum provides for the collection, study, and establishment of programs and exhibitions related to African American life, history, art, and culture. It is a place where people can learn about the richness and diversity of the African American experience; it is a place of meaning, memory, reflection, laughter, and hope. 

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The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Image: Benny Andrews, Spring Maiden, 1963, oil on canvas and collage, 30” x 20”, Art © Estate of Benny Andrews/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY