It's the season of David C. Driskell in Connecticut museums.
In New Haven, a student-chosen exhibit "Embodied: Black Identities in American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery," which includes Driskell's 2002 screenprint, "Dancing Angel," continues through June 26 at the Yale gallery. It was curated by students from Yale and from the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora at the University of Maryland in College Park, where the exhibit originally was shown. It opened at Yale last month with a lecture from Driskell, who is known as much as an educator, curator, scholar and collector as he is an artist.But the big Driskell event has been happening at the Amistad Center for Art & Culture at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford. The massive show of his prints over a half century, "Evolution: Five Decades of Printmaking," with its 75 pieces, proved too large for the center, so it was broken into two parts. The first, which opened back in October, ran through early this month. The concluding half opened last weekend and runs through August.
A run of more than nine month makes "Evolution" in its two parts one of the longest-lasting shows in the state, and at more than nine months in length, the longest in Amistad history.
And yet, it is also one of the most popular exhibits in Amistad history, according to Alona C. Wilson, assistant director and curator for the Amistad Center.
Driskell is recognized as one of the most respected names in African American art and culture. His curating of the 1976 exhibit "Two Centuries of Black American Art: 1759-1950" laid the groundwork for the field of African American Art History. He's become a cultural advisor to stars including Bill Cosby and Oprah Winfrey, who consult with him on buying African and African-American works. He was also chairman of the Department of Art from 1978-1983 at University of Maryland, where he is now professor emeritus.
Driskell was given a National Humanities Medal by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and was elected National Academician by the National Academy in 2007. And yet for all these accomplishments, he still turns out an amazing array of art work.
Originally working in drawing and painting, he learned printmaking after graduating from Howard University in 1955, when he became an assistant professor of art at Talladega College in Alabama. A voracious learner in technique and style, he mastered woodcuts, linoleum cuts, lithographs, etchings and screenprints in various styles and colors by working with a variety of artists.
Inspired by the masks of African art, which he also collected, he also was influenced by the modernist lines of Matisse or Picasso in making portraits, landscapes, still lifes and abstracts.Because of the nature of prints, he was able to return to some of his older images, often decades after they were originally made, to add a new perspective, color or angle.Through the work in "Evolution," his life story also can be picked out, from the church steeples of rural North Carolina, where his father grew up, to the pines of Maine, where he first studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and where he now.