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PAFA presents 'Spiritual Strivings: A Celebration of African American Works on Paper'
Eldzier Cortor, Dance Composition No. 35, etching, aquatint, and flat bit from two plates, with hand-coloring, on cream wove paper, 23 3/4 x 21 7/8 in, Gift of the artist in memory of Sophia R. Cortor, 2013.18.20.

PILADELPIA,PA.- The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts presents Spiritual Strivings: A Celebration of African American Works on Paper.

Spiritual Strivings is a summer-long, museum-wide celebration of African American works on paper, featuring two exhibitions of over 90 works of art: The Kelley Collection on view in the Annenberg Gallery in the Samuel M. V. Hamilton Building (through October 12), and Eldzier Cortor: Theme and Variations in the Richard C. von Hess Foundation Works on Paper Gallery in the Historic Landmark Building (through August 31). Together, these exhibitions present a rare opportunity for visitors to view master graphics spanning two centuries of African American art.
The works on view in the Kelley Collection are drawn from a magnificent collection of African American works on paper from the Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of San Antonio, TX—one of the country’s preeminent collections of African American art. Organized in association with Landau Traveling Exhibitions, this installation features over 70 works that span the 20th century and trace the rich history of African American art.

"PAFA is delighted to mount this exhibition of the Kelley's collection, which is revered by serious collectors of African American art. The show continues our dedication to both exhibiting the work of African American artists, as well as deepening the awareness of, and scholarship around, these artists," says Harry Philbrick, the Edna S. Tuttleman Director of the Museum,” says Harry Philbrick, the Edna S. Tuttleman Director of the Museum.

“In conjunction with Spiritual Strivings, we are thrilled to announce the recent acquisition of a landscape painting by Edward Bannister (1828-1901), the preeminent African-American landscape painter of the 19th century. Newport, Rhode Island (1890) is the first work by Bannister to enter PAFA's collection, and it is currently installed with a grouping of Hudson River School and Tonalist landscapes. The painting further strengthens PAFA’s collection of African American art, which includes works by such noted artists as Joshua Johnson and Henry Ossawa Tanner that together tell the story of African American art in the 19th century,” says Anna Marley, the exhibition’s curator, and PAFA Curator of Historical American Art.

The Kelley Collection includes a diverse selection of drawings, etchings, lithographs, watercolors, pastels, acrylics, gouaches, linoleum and color screen prints by such noted artists as Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Aaron Douglas, Jacob Lawrence, Alma Thomas, and Charles White.

Philadelphia-area artists in the exhibition include Samuel J. Brown, Paul Keene, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Horace Pippin, and Dox Thrash. Also featured are works by living artists Glen Ligon, Whitfield Lovell, Sam Middleton, Ike Morgan, and Allyson Saar.

The majority of the works in this exhibition were produced during the 1930s and 40s, the era of the Great Depression and the Works Progress Administration of the Federal Arts Project that provided employment for many artists. That period gave birth to a school of African American regionalism and black consciousness that would not re-surface until the Civil Rights Movement.

Eldzier Cortor: Theme and Variations celebrates a recent gift of prints and printmaking materials to PAFA from Eldzier Cortor (b. 1916) — an artist who has had an extraordinary career as both a painter and printmaker. The body of donated work consists of 53 objects, including original plates, test proofs, and examples from several series of prints, from the 1950s through 2000. Curated by Robert Cozzolino, Senior Curator and Curator of Modern Art, the installation presents selections from this gift to reveal Cortor’s working methods, and shows how he has used printmaking as a means to explore motifs in flux.

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