The High Museum of Art
, in collaboration with Talladega College in Alabama, today embarked on a two-year project to restore, research and exhibit Hale Aspacio Woodruffs renowned Talladega murals. Commissioned in 1938 to both commemorate the 1867 founding of Talladega College
and celebrate its success as one of the nations first all-black colleges, the murals have been on continuous view at the college since their installation in the lobby of Savery Library.
The Talladega murals, which are considered among Woodruffs greatest achievements, will undergo conservation at the Atlanta Art Conservation Center under the auspices of the High Museum of Art and will then be presented to a national audience for the first time. Rising Up: Hale Woodruffs Murals at Talladega College will be on view at the High from June 2 to September 2, 2012, before traveling to the Indianapolis Museum of Art and other museums to be announced.
Comprising six monumental canvases arranged in two cycles of three, the vibrant murals portray heroic efforts to resist slavery as well as moments in the history of the college, which opened in 1867 to serve the educational needs of a new population of freed slaves. The first cycle depicts the uprising on the slave ship La Amistad, the trial that followed and the subsequent freedom and return to Africa of the captives on that ship. The companion murals show themes of the Underground Railroad, the founding of Talladega College and the construction of Savery Library, for which the murals were commissioned. The restoration process will address the effects of aging on the works.
The exhibition at the High Museum of Art will include works that span Woodruffs career, with a particular focus on his important work as a muralist. In addition to the Talladega murals and studies, this exhibition will feature examples of Woodruffs other mural commissions as well as smaller-scale paintings he made while in Mexico, where he went in 1936 to study mural painting with Diego Rivera. The project also explores Woodruffs impact on the arts and the opportunities he provided for artists of color in his role as the first chair of the newly established art department of Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University) from 1931 to 1946. The exhibition project will be accompanied by a catalogue that will include essays on the artist, the murals, Talladega College and American mural painting in the decades surrounding the Talladega project. A descriptive photo essay on the findings of the conservation work will also be featured. After the murals are restored and exhibited nationally, they will return to Talladega College in 2013.
Preserving and exhibiting these murals holds a particular relevance for the people of Atlanta, said Michael E. Shapiro, the Highs Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr. Director. Hale Woodruff was of central importance to the burgeoning art scene here in the 30s and 40s and an integral figure in the history of public art in the Southeast. Seeing Woodruffs newly restored Talladega murals in the context of his other works will be a significant experience for both local and national audiences.
This is a very historic event for Talladega College, not only getting the murals restored, but to share them on tour throughout the country in the next two years, stated Dr. Billy C. Hawkins, President of Talladega College. The tour will give the institution great exposure and help in our fundraising and recruiting efforts.