Modern Black Culture: The Art of Aaron Douglas

April 22, 2022 - June 19, 2022

Aaron Douglas (1899-1979) was one of the leading African American modernists associated with the Harlem Renaissance. His paintings, murals, book covers, and illustrations form a powerful body of work with a Utopian vision of the future. His dynamic Art Deco-like forms, starkly silhouetted figures, and reduced color palette combine into an immediately recognizable style. The Ackland is fortunate to have a rich and varied collection of works on long-term loan, ranging from drawings for illustrations and a sketchbook to items of applied art and a little-known version of one of his major compositions, Building More Stately Mansions. To this core group will be added works in other collections in the state, including the Wilson Special Collections Library at UNC-Chapel Hill, the North Carolina Museum of Art, Bennett College, and others. Curated by John Bowles, associate professor of African American art in the UNC-Chapel Hill Art Department, the exhibition has been structured to illuminate the various cultural strands and sources that Douglas drew on as he created his influential version of Modern Black Culture. These include ancient Egypt, the American South, African art, the Caribbean, and the African diaspora. A section of the exhibition will focus on Douglas’s connections to North Carolina.

This exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Amy Helene Kirschke.

Image credit:

Aaron Douglas, American, 1899-1979, Study for a Bookplate, c. 1929, ink on paper, 7 7/8 x 10 7/16 in. (20 x 26.5 cm). Lent from a private collection, L2013.24.10