Press Room

African American artists shine at Georgia Museum of Art

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia will show nearly 60 works by African American artists in the exhibition “Expanding Tradition: Selections from the Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Collection,” on view January 28 to May 7, 2017.

The Thompsons donated 100 works of art by African Americans to the museum in 2012, on the heels of a traveling exhibition drawn from their collection, “Tradition Redefined: The Larry and Brenda Thompson Collection of African American Art.” “Expanding Tradition” is a second exhibition highlighting the couple’s commitment to collecting art over the last several decades through a new selection of works borrowed from their extensive private collection.

“Expanding Tradition” also serves as the inaugural exhibition for Shawnya Harris, the Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Curator of African American and African Diasporic Art. Like the earlier exhibition, it offers a chance to expand scholarship on artists of color who, until recent years, have been overlooked. In addition, the Thompsons’ gift of the endowed curatorial position that Harris occupies furthers a larger mission of fostering inclusivity in American art history and the museum profession.

Harris asserts that both the exhibition and its accompanying catalogue, which will be published by the museum, “continue the unfolding narrative of this important collection of American art.” By presenting artists and themes central to the collection’s development it will examine the promise of inclusion being offered to visitors to the museum and broader audiences.

Paintings and other works in the exhibition range from the late 19th century to the contemporary era, making for a comprehensive look at African American art history. Visitors will gain insight into the complex relationships among race, gender, class, politics and the economy through the works of art, the catalogue and related programming. Featured artists include contemporary artists Willie Cole, Whitfield Lovell, Kevin Cole and Kara Walker as well as historical artists such as Elizabeth Catlett, Charles Sebree, Beauford Delaney and Benny Andrews.  The exhibition also includes rare Depression-era works by Norman Lewis, Charles White, Dox Thrash and Rose Piper.

Related events include 90 Carlton: Winter, the museum’s quarterly reception (free for members of the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art, $5 non-members) on February 10 at 5:30 p.m.; a tour of the exhibition with Harris on February 15 at 2 p.m.; “Conversation on Collecting,” a discussion with the Thompsons and Curlee Raven Holton, director of the David C. Driskell Center on February 23 at 5:30 p.m.; the museum’s annual Black History Month Dinner ($55 members, $75 nonmembers) on February 24 at 6 p.m.; a gallery conversation with assistant curator of education Sage Kincaid on March 22 at 2 p.m.; an artists’ panel discussion on March 23; and a Family Day on April 15 from 10 a.m. to noon. All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise indicated.

“Expanding Tradition” is sponsored by the W. Newton Morris Charitable Foundation and the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art.


Writer: Sarah Dotson,
Contact: Michael Lachowski, (706) 542-9078,

Museum Information
Partial support for the exhibition and programs at the Georgia Museum of Art is provided by the Georgia Council for the Arts through appropriations of the Georgia General Assembly. The council is a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Individuals, foundations and corporations provide additional museum support through their gifts to the University of Georgia Foundation. The Georgia Museum of Art is located in the Performing and Visual Arts Complex on UGA’s East Campus. The address is 90 Carlton Street, Athens, GA, 30602-1502. For more information, including hours, see or call 706.542.4662.


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