Photographs by Corrado Serra.
“This installation of paintings, sculptures, and quilts celebrates the creative accomplishments of contemporary African American artists from the southeastern United States and a transformative gift of fifty-seven artworks from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation of Atlanta, Georgia. Remarkably diverse in media and technique, the selection nonetheless suggests cultural and aesthetic bonds in the use of found and repurposed materials, an approach fostered by the distressed economic conditions of the post-industrial rural South. The subjects these works address are likewise varied, rooted in personal history and experience as well as regional identity—particularly common legacies of slavery and post-Reconstruction oppression under the Black Codes and Jim Crow laws—and national and international events.
History Refused to Die spotlights the mixed-media creations of Thornton Dial—whose monumental 2004 assemblage provides the exhibition’s title—and the renowned quilters of Gee’s Bend (now Boykin), Alabama, including Annie Mae Young, Lucy Mingo, Loretta Pettway, and other members of the extended Pettway family. Others featured here include Nellie Mae Rowe, Lonnie Holley, and Ronald Lockett. Over time, the label “outsider” has been applied to self-taught artists like these who used everyday or discarded materials to create work for themselves and their communities, without the expectation it would been seen in galleries or museums. Presented in the context of The Met’s collection, this exhibition aspires to challenge that inadequate description and to encourage an expanded understanding of their legacies within the broader canon of contemporary American art.” — Introductory Wall Text
History Refused to Die: Highlights from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation Gift is organized by Randall Griffey, Curator in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, and Amelia Peck, Marica F. Vilcek Curator of American Decorative Arts and manager of The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art at The Met. The exhibition was originated by Marla Prather, former curator in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Met.