Student Curatorial Project: African-American artists in UMMA's collection

The University of Michigan Museum of Art has recently drafted policies aimed at increasing representation of artists of color both in the museum's collection and on display in the galleries for visitors to view. The collection as a whole contains around 24,000 objects, and the museum displays about 2500 objects at a time. 

You can help UMMA identify works already in our collection that should get time on display. Your task for this project is to pick three of the works in this resource that you would like to see on display and explain why. Some of the art that you see in this resource have been displayed at the museum. Others haven't.

Follow these steps:

1) Look through the artworks and pick out about 5 that you like and find interesting. The most important thing for this step is that you pick art that you like or find interesting or engaging.

2) Do some research on the internet about the artists and the artwork. Wikipedia is a good place to start.

3) Narrow down to the three that you would most like to have displayed at the museum. This is important: Pick three that work good together, not just on their own.

4) Put the images side by side in a table in a google document like this so we can all see them side by side. Even better, put them in a slideshow or powerpoint to make the display look nice.

5) Prepare a 5-minute presentation for the class about your choices. Be sure to take some time to talk about how the three artworks go together well or work well together to say something that they cannot do on their own.

Eight male figures (three kneeling in front and five standing in back) wearing orange tank tops and white shorts face the viewer; two basketballs and five trophies between figures in the foreground. Figures stand in front of a background of fragmented, arched and circular areas of color in blues and golds.
Jacob Lawrence
tempera over black colored pencil on wood board
19 13/16 in x 24 in (50.32 cm x 60.96 cm);18 1/8 in x 9 3/8 in (46.04 cm x 23.81 cm)
Gift of Dr. James and Vivian Curtis
This is a brightly colored oil painting of a street scene. Buildings are depicted in pink, yellow, and white.  A lavender and blue sky with white and yellow clouds makes up the background. Two women stand in the lower left corner; another woman and a black dog are seen on the right side. The ground is made up of patches of white, yellow, pink, and blue.  Thick black outlines are used throughout and the paint has been applied in a very thick and factured manner. Traces of newspaper appear to have been laid on the painting while it was still wet and became stuck and are visible in the clouds at the top and in the white portion of the central building, just under the street lamp.
Beauford Delaney
Street Scene
oil on canvas
18 in x 22 in (45.72 cm x 55.88 cm);23 1/2 in x 27 1/2 in (59.69 cm x 69.85 cm)
Gift of Dr. James and Vivian Curtis
At the center of the painting, two animals meet: a horse and a bull. Painted in a variety of colors, the two animals are abstracted in a Cubist style. The painting is signed (u.r.) in black paint "Bearden". 
Romare Bearden
Now the Dove and the Leopard Wrestle
oil on canvas
23 1/2 in x 29 1/4 in (59.69 cm x 74.3 cm);32 in x 38 in x 2 1/2 in (81.28 cm x 96.52 cm x 6.35 cm)
Transfer from the William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan, gift of Clarence Wolf, February 1997
This is a line drawing on white paper. There is a hatchet, an oblong box with a dark line around the middle and the words, "thousands of dollars". The drawing is signed and dated (l.r.).
Jean-Michel Basquiat
Thousands of dollars
graphite on paper
24 in x 18 in (60.96 cm x 45.72 cm)
Gift of Arthur Cohen in honor of Ben and Yetta Cohen
This is an abstract face of a figure looking to the right. The head is divided into compartments of varying textures by several straight lines. There are piano keys are on the left side of the head, and a cigarette at top left. 
Sargent Claude Johnson
Lenox Avenue
lithograph on paper
12 ½ in x 8 9/16 in (31.75 cm x 21.75 cm)
Allocated by the U.S. Government Commissioned through the New Deal art projects
This print shows two figures dancing in front of three musicians by the water with a moon in the sky and reflected in the water. A far away seaside fort is visible in the upper left corner. 
Miguel Covarrubias
Afro-Cuban Dancers and Percussionists
lithograph on paper
9 1/4 in x 13 1/2 in (23.5 cm x 34.29 cm);11 15/16 in x 16 1/16 in (30.32 cm x 40.8 cm);22 1/16 in x 28 1/8 in (56.04 cm x 71.44 cm)
Museum Purchase
Silhouette of a person facing away from the camera wearing feathered headwear.
Shani Peters
Nzinga Future
ink on paper
36 1/4 in x 24 in (92.07 cm x 60.96 cm)
Transfer from the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan
Don Camp
Man Who Writes/John Wideman
earth pigment and casein monoprint on paper
30 in. x 22 in. ( 76.2 cm x 55.9 cm )
Gift of Suzan and Michael Alexander in memory of Scott M. Ziobro
Three-quarter length image of a woman whose face is blank except for her lips, the only facial feature included. She wears brown and yellow clothing with red and black line details. She leans from the lower right corner of image to the left.
Benny Andrews
Homecoming Queen
mixed media and watercolor on paper
22 13/16 in x 18 1/4 in x 13/16 in (58 cm x 46.4 cm x 2 cm);22 13/16 in x 18 1/4 in x 13/16 in (58 cm x 46.4 cm x 2 cm)
Gift of Romesh and Veena Saigal
This print has rows of stencilled black text in all capital letters on white background. In pencil, the print is signed and dated (l.r.) "Glenn Lignon '92" and numbered (l.l.) "27/45". 
Glenn Ligon
etching, aquatint, spitbite, and sugarlift on Rives BFK paper
25 in x 17 1/4 in (63.5 cm x 43.82 cm);32 3/16 in x 26 3/16 in (81.76 cm x 66.52 cm)
Museum Purchase
Kara Walker
One of five prints from the suite "The Means to an End--A Shadow Drama in Five Acts"
aquatint and etching on light cream Somerset Satin wove paper
34 7/8 x 23 3/8 in. (88.5 x 59.3 cm);40 x 28 x 1 in. (101.6 x 71.12 x 2.54 cm)
Museum purchase made possible by the Jean Paul Slusser Memorial Fund
An assemblage of found objects: a salvaged wood frame with wood inlay letters spelling &quot;COLORED,&quot; four portrait photographs of African American females (two photogaphs on either side of a printed poem), nine thread samples under photographs, and one hand mirror hanging on a decorative brass hook to the viewer&#39;s right of the frame. The poem reads:&nbsp;<br />
&quot;Light is Alright<br />
Yellow is Mellow<br />
Brown, Stick Around<br />
Black, Get Back<br />
(but black don&#39;t crack)&quot;<br />
<br />
The wood has a strong smell, may have been treated with molasses.<br />
<br />
Betye Saar
mixed media assemblage with photographs, paper, and thread on wood
14 ½ in x 30 in x 1 ½ in (36.83 cm x 76.2 cm x 3.81 cm);10 in x 5 in x ½ in (25.4 cm x 12.7 cm x 1.27 cm)
Museum purchase made possible by Dr. James and Vivian Curtis and the W. Hawkins Ferry Fund


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Last Updated

April 13, 2021 8:40 a.m.


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