This body of work examines the artist’s stylistic growth and creative explorations through the various styles and media employed in his printmaking over the past five decades.
This creative and relevant architectural structure was designed by the award-winning Freelon Group, contract recipients of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The four-story design of the Gantt Center was inspired from the Myers School referred to as “Jacob’s Ladder School,” which was located in the heart of Charlotte’s historic African American community known as Brooklyn. The innovative and award-winning design provides an important tie to the local historic context and broader link to African-American history and culture. The metaphor centers on the notion of hope and enlightenment in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
On the south side of the building, you can view the two public art creations. Divergent Threads, Lucent Memories is an artwork created by North Carolina artist, David Wilson. The artwork features 14 vibrant and bold glass panels spanning approximately 500 square feet. Colorful, flowing, synchronistic, organic forms adorn the panels and metaphorically convey the Gantt Center’s mission to present, preserve and promote African-American art, culture and history for the education and enlightenment of all.
On the plaza fronting South Tryon Street, “Intersections” was designed by local artist Juan Logan. The plaza’s dominant motif, dynamic patterning inspired by Central African Kuba textiles, embodies intertwined relationships between the historical occupants of this site, the present residents moving through the thriving downtown area, and future generations of contributors to society. The head shaped sculptural granite form in one corner of the plaza features the names of African-American communities and streets in Charlotte, past and present, engraved in layers on the stone.
The Gantt Center is the permanent home for the Hewitt Colletion, one of the country’s most unique and diverse private collections of African-American art belonging to art collectors, Vivian Hewitt and the late John Hewitt of New York City. The Hewitt Collection includes work by many important artists, including Henry O. Tanner, Romare Bearden, Charles Alston, John Biggers, Elizabeth Catlett, Jonathan Green, Ronald Joseph, Jacob Lawrence, Hughie Lee-Smith and Hale Woodruff. The work in the collection is predominantly figurative. One piece, Romare Bearden’s Homage to Mary Lou (1983), is a lithograph of the image known elsewhere as The Piano Lesson. This work was developed from an encounter that Bearden and his wife, Nanette, had with jazz musician Mary Lou Williams at an NAACP awards banquet in Atlanta. August Wilson subsequently built his play, The Piano Lesson, from this image.
Evolution: Five Decades of Printmaking by David C. Driskell will be on exhibition until June 20, 2010. Driskell is an artist, art historian, collector, curator, educator, and one of the most recognized and respected names in the world of African American art and culture. This body of work examines the artist’s stylistic growth and creative explorations through the various styles and media employed in his printmaking over the past five decades. He addresses themes as diverse as those drawn from classical art and nature, to still life, portraiture, religion, imagery and experimentation with African forms and subjects. Through this array of prints you get a sense of Driskell’s interests, strengths, experiences, family and personal musings.
Driskell has been a practicing artist and active printmaker since the 1950’s. His works are in major museums throughout the world, including the National Gallery of Art, the High Museum of Art, and Yale University Art Gallery, to name a few. In 1976, Driskell curated the groundbreaking exhibit “Two Centuries of Black American Art: 1750-1950, which laid the foundation for the field of African American Art History. Since 1977, Professor Driskell has served as cultural advisor to Camille O. and William H. Cosby and as the curator of the Cosby Collection of Fine Arts. In 2000, in a White House Ceremony, Professor Driskell received the National Humanities Medal from President Bill Clinton. In 2007, he was elected as a National Academician by the National Academy.