Brooks Museum’s artworks by & about African Americans

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we’re reminded of the contribution by African Americans in the art world. Memphis Brooks Museum of Art has numerous works on display by or about African Americans.

Be sure to find the following works the next time you visit the museum, including the Chandler Gallery that is now celebrating the accomplishments of Ernest C. Withers (1922-2007), who captured images that powerfully defined the Civil Rights Movement.

Main Level: 

Member Lounge

Carol K. Brown explores the many different individuals she experiences in daily life. Brown, being Caucasian herself, paints subjects of different race, class, gender, and age.

Carol K. Brown
American, b. 1945
Pedestrian (63001), 2006
Acrylic on canvas
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art purchase; funds given in memory of Gloria Howard, 2007.2
© Carol K. Brown

Contemporary Galleries

Whitfield Lovell explores his own heritage by producing anonymous portraits of African Americans from the Jim Crow era that appear to have experienced the passing of time.

Whitfield Lovell
American, b. 1959
Psalm, 1999
Charcoal on wood, radio, audio cassette
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art purchase; funds provided by Mr. T. Hall Cannon, Elliot Perry, Marina Pacini and David McCarthy, Dr. James Patterson, Dr. Rushton Patterson, Karen Spacek and William Solmson, and Craig Michael Wiener, 2005.12a-e
© Whitfield Lovell

David Bates, of European American descent, was born in the South and continues to be inspired by it. Grassy Lakes, Arkansas is home to many of the subjects Bates chooses to paint such as Ed Walker, the man depicted in Cat Man.

David Bates
American, b. 1952
The Cat Man, 1986
Oil on canvas
Purchased by Art Today and Edith Caywood, Jean Clouspy, Robert Fogelman, Tom Gettelfinger, Wil and Sally Hergenrader, Peggy Jalenak, Lorraine Kroul, Mickey Laukhuff, Jan Singer, and Zeno Yeates; additional contributors include Sheryl Bowen, Mrs. Evelyn Buchanan, Marjorie Polk, Jennie Samelson, Mrs. Tommie Shobe, and Mr. Chuck Wise, 86.5.1
© David Bates

Chakaia Booker’s art is a product of her studies in the fine arts as well as Sociology and African Studies. She began her work with tires in the 1990’s as she saw them for metaphors for social, economic and industrial struggles.

Chakaia Booker
American, b. 1953
Untitled, 2002
Rubber, tire, wood
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art purchase; funds provided by Wil and Sally Hergenrader, 2006.33
© Chakaia Booker

Sam Gilliam was born into an African American family in Mississippi but spent his formative years in Louisville, Kentucky where his training lead to his style in Abstract Expressionism and other Modernist styles.

Sam Gilliam
American, b. 1933
Azure, 1977
Acrylic with collage on canvas
Gift of Art Today, 80.2
© Sam Gilliam

Lower Level:

Leon Koury, born of Syrian immigrant parents, returned to his home of Mississippi after training in New York City and New Jersey. Mississippi gave him many of the subjects for his sculptures, including this compress worker, whose physically demanding job requires him to move bales of cotton weighing between 500 and 600 pounds.

Leon Koury
American, 1909-1993
Compress Worker, 1941
Bronze, 2
Gift of Brooks Art Gallery League, 41.6
© Estate of the artist

Carroll Cloar, born of European American parents, received his education in Memphis, traveled Europe, Mexico, and Asia, but returned to the South where he drew much of his inspiration from and painted many references to small town America.

Carroll Cloar
American (active in Memphis), 1913 - 1993
Where the Southern Cross the Yellow Dog, 1965
Casein tempera on Masonite
Brooks Fine Arts Foundation purchase, 65.17
© Estate of the artist

William Edmonson came from a rural part of Nashville, Tennessee where his parents were former slaves. He remained in Tennessee where he set up his studio and commenced his extraordinary body of work.

William Edmondson
American, 1874-1951
Courting Lady, ca. 1940s
Gift of AutoZone, Inc., 2001.15.13
© Estate of the artist

Posted by Andria Lisle at 10:00 AM
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