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For generations, Black artists from the American South have forged a unique art tradition. Working in near isolation from established practices, they have created masterpieces in clay, driftwood, roots, soil, and recycled and cast-off objects that articulate America’s painful past―the inhuman practice of enslavement, the cruel segregationist policies of the Jim Crow era and institutionalized racism. Their works respond to issues ranging from economic inequality, oppression and social marginalization to sexuality, the influence of place and ancestral memory.
Among the sculptures, paintings, reliefs and drawings included here―the majority from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation in Atlanta―are works by Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, Ronald Lockett, Hawkins Bolden, Bessie Harvey, Charles Williams, Mary T. Smith, Purvis Young, Mose Tolliver, Nellie Mae Rowe, Mary Lee Bendolph, Marlene Bennett Jones, Martha Jane Pettway, Loretta Pettway and Henry and Georgia Speller. Also featured are the celebrated quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, and work from the neighboring communities of Rehoboth and Alberta.