NORFOLK, VA.- The Chrysler Museum of Art
was awarded three grants totaling $225,000 from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Getty Foundation, and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art. The funding will support the major exhibition Black Orpheus: Jacob Lawrence & the Mbari Club, co-curated by Kimberli Gant, Ph.D., the Chrysler Museum of Arts McKinnon curator of modern & contemporary art, and Ndubuisi Ezeluomba, Ph.D., the New Orleans Museum of Arts Françoise Billion Richardson curator of African art. The show will debut at the Chrysler Museum of Art in fall 2022 and then travel to the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Toledo Museum of Art in 2023.
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Getty Foundation each awarded the Chrysler $100,000 in support of the exhibition. Gettys grant is part of The Paper Project, an initiative supporting early and mid-career curators of prints and drawings. The Chrysler received $25,000 from the Wyeth Foundation for American Art supporting the exhibition catalogue. The full-color Yale University Press publication will include essays by the exhibition curators and leading interdisciplinary scholars.
These significant grants are an acknowledgment of the quality of the ideas and expertise of the curatorial team as well as the commitment of the organizing institutions to promote bold new ideas about the history of art. Black Orpheus: Jacob Lawrence & the Mbari Club is an ambitious exhibition that will expand our understanding of Lawrence and introduce many visitors to important artists that may be less well known in America."said Erik Neil, the Chrysler Museum of Arts director. The show will bring Lawrences Nigeria series together for the first time in more than five decades. It is also the first museum exhibition of the Nigeria series and the international artists associated with the Mbari Artists and Writers Club. We are honored to have the support of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Getty Foundation, and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art in this endeavor.
On the 65th anniversary of the creation of Nigerian-based culture and arts publication Black Orpheus and the 60th anniversary of Jacob Lawrences first exhibition in Nigeria, Black Orpheus: Jacob Lawrence & the Mbari Club will explore the connection between Lawrence and his West African-based contemporaries during a period of artistic innovation emerging from socio-political upheaval. In 1965, Lawrence presented thirteen tempera and gouache paintings and nine crayon and ink drawings of Lagos and Ibadan marketplaces at the Terry Dintenfass Gallery in New York. These images were the culmination of a nine-month stay in Nigeria hosted by German cultural critic Ulli Beier, one of the founders of the Mbari Artists & Writers Club.
Black Orpheus: Jacob Lawrence & the Mbari Club will be the first in-depth investigation of Lawrences little-known time in Nigeria and the works he created there. In addition to presenting the larger interwoven artistic shifts happening in Nigeria during the first decade of independence, the project will explore the importance of international exchange between African American and African artists, an area that also needs further research. We are grateful to receive such generous support for this exhibition, said Gant.
Lawrence's residency in Nigeria placed him and his practice in conversation with Mbari Club members, an international consortium of artists, dramatists and writers in post-Independence Nigeria, including prominent figures within modern African art and literature such as Bruce Onobrakpeya, Vincent Kofi, Wole Soyinka, and Chinua Achebe. They created the arts journal Black Orpheus (195775) and several other small literary publications to "encourage and discuss contemporary African writing," and soon after, the visual arts. In 1961, the Mbari Club founded a gallery space in Ibadan where they met, socialized, and presented exhibitions. Black Orpheus and this gallery space led to numerous artists having their first published art reviews and their first art exhibitions in Nigeria. Most of these artists, including Lawrence, William H. Johnson, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Vincent Kofi, Ibrahim El-Salahi, Francis Newton Souza, Suzanne Wenger, and Naoko Matsubara are now iconic modernist artists.
The exhibition will feature approximately 139 works, including Lawrences Nigeria series, a collection of 22 works on paper tempera-and-gouache, crayon and ink paintings and drawings, as well as 40 other lithographs, wood block prints, etchings, linocuts, and watercolors. Also included will be 25 original letters, Black Orpheus issues, two archival videos featuring Mbari Club artists, and several paintings, sculptures, reliefs, and textiles.
Black Orpheus: Jacob Lawrence & the Mbari Club exhibition will be organized with five themes that highlight Lawrences images and those of the artists featured in the Black Orpheus publication: Lawrences Nigeria, Artists of Osogbo, Zaria Art Society, Across the African Continent and Beyond the African Continent.
The show will debut at the Chrysler Oct. 7, 2022Jan. 8, 2023. It will be on view at the New Orleans Museum of Art Feb. 10May 7, 2023 before closing at the Toledo Museum of Art June 3Sept. 3, 2023.