Chelsea Gallery Highlights 150 Years Of African-American Art

A journey through more than a century of art by African-Americans is currently underway at a new gallery show in Manhattan. NY1's Shazia Khan filed the following report.

At ACA Galleries in Chelsea, artist Faith Ringgold reconnects with her former neighbors from Sugar Hill in Harlem. They include artists Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence.

"It just brings back such memories to me, African-American artists that I was really not that aware of their importance as a child growing up, because we didn't learn about them in school," says Ringgold.

Ringgold's work along with Bearden's and Lawrence's are part of a new exhibition called "Visions of America: a Black Perspective." The rich range of art from collages and paintings to drawings and sculptures spans 150 years. For ACA galleries, showing works by African-American artists is part of its roots.

"Since the gallery's inception in 1932 we showed work by African-American artists, women artists, other minorities on a regular basis. That was very rare," said ACA Galleries Co-owner Dorian Bergen.

A number of surprises line the walls, including Charles White's "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child," a work that has not been shown in 60 years and a collage by Bearden.

"We date it to 1956, 1957 which is if it's not the first collage that he ever did it's among the first few collages," says Bergen.

For artist Danny Simmons, who is featured in the show, the 150-year span puts things into perspective.

"We are being considered more as American artists now and part of the conversation about what artists transpired in America," says Simmons. "And I think that's what this show is about to show these artists as great American artists and not only African-American artists to be up on the wall."

Ian Lewis Fuller says his grandfather, artist Norman Lewis, who died in 1979, would have appreciated the exhibit in his time.

"During the 80s and 90s and so forth people really started to have an appreciation for what he was doing at the vanguard of abstract expressionism he was really exploring colors techniques he was getting outside the box of doing 'just black art,'" says Fuller.

"Visions of America: a Black Perspective" is on view through March 15th.

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