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There are pieces in “Exhibiting Culture” by heavy hitters like Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Hale Woodruff, Elizabeth Catlett, James Van Der Zee and Mildred Thompson. And throughout the exhibit, there’s a mini-history of the Atlanta art scene in works by Kojo Griffin, Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier, Amalia Amaki, Radcliffe Bailey, Yanique Norman, and Larry Walker. The locals, as always, are holding on.

For a time, it was almost impossible to visit a group exhibition in the city without seeing works by Linnemeier and Amaki. Although Radcliffe Bailey’s career trajectory has overshadowed these two artists, all three share an interest in creating sanctuary-like works in mixed media adorned with found objects and imbued with reverence. This connective tissue can be seen in Linnemeier’s “A Place Called Freedom”, where Isaiah T. Montgomery – founder of the all-black community of Mound Bayou, Mississippi – wears a halo of cowries, or in Amaki’s moving artwork ” Family Jewels,” in which black-and-white photos of black ancestors are beautifully framed with humble pearl buttons and the brass butterfly clutches that secure military medals. In Amaki’s hands, these humble items also become precious as the gold leaf of a religious icon.

Legend

Pool Shooters by Benny Andrews (1972). Courtesy of Hammonds House Museum

Credit: document

Benny Andrews'

Credit: document

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Pool Shooters by Benny Andrews (1972). Courtesy of Hammonds House Museum

Credit: document

Credit: document

Some of Exhibiting Culture’s most memorable works are the most evanescent, such as the delicate ink-on-paper drawing “Pool Shooter” (1972) by Georgia-born Benny Andrews. Andrews flaunts his marvelous economy of gestures to emphasize the carefree style of a lanky pool player – all Giacometti’s angularity – who wears a flippant bandana tucked in his back pocket as he bends down to make his move. A true American original, don’t miss the interview with Andrews – who later in his career would educate the next generation of talents like David Hammons and Kerry James Marshall – broadcast on the museum’s back room video screen. Charles White delivers an equally unexpected alchemical gem in “Vision”, of an upturned woman’s face emerging like a ghost from the surface of a sterling silver plate – a vision itself or a witness to it.

Like so many artists featured here, offering fixes to ugly cartoons and hateful stereotypes, the dignity of White’s African American subjects was paramount. He saw his art as intertwined with politics and black liberation, a fact attested to in numerous quotes from artists displayed as placards on the lawn of Hammonds House.

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“Untitled” by Nellie Mae Rowe (1981). Courtesy of Hammonds House Museum

Credit: document

Nellie Mae Rowe "Untitled" (nineteen eighty one).  Courtesy of Hammonds House Museum

Credit: document

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“Untitled” by Nellie Mae Rowe (1981). Courtesy of Hammonds House Museum

Credit: document

Credit: document

There’s a balance in “Exhibiting Culture” between the bright, exuberant abstract works of Mildred Thompson and the verdant, Gaugin-inspired watercolor nudes of Romare Bearden on display on the second floor of the museum, which may look like a patch of the beyond to darker works on display. below. This sense of sobriety found on the first floor is typified by Andrews’ nightmarish image of a man consumed by hell in “Plight” or Bill Traylor’s haunting hieroglyphics that make “Exhibiting Culture” an intricate window on the world. black experience through art.


VISUAL ARTS JOURNAL

“Exhibiting Culture: Highlights from the Hammonds House Museum Collection”

Hammonds House Museum is closed until Spring 2022. 503 Peeples St. SW, Atlanta. hammondshouse.org.

Conclusion: A work that is both joyful and despondent offers a window into how the artworks collected by Atlanta physician Otis Hammonds express the black experience.