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Conjuring Bearden, a richly illustrated exhibition catalog, explores the theme of the “conjur woman” in the work of artist Romare Bearden (1911–1988). Throughout his career, Bearden represented the female figure of the conjurer, or her Caribbean equivalent, the Obeah woman, in his art. Enthralled by her spirituality and power to transform, Bearden depicted the Obeah in his collage, photomontage, and watercolors. Although much has been written about Bearden, this is the first book to critically address his obsessive and creative relationship with this figure of the black vernacular.
One of Bearden’s most striking methods for introducing the figure of the conjur woman in his art was by distilling Cubist and Dadaist fracture through the deconstructive aesthetics of jazz compositions and African American folk collage and assemblage. With arresting color, Bearden’s conjurers were neither eroticized nor made passive. Essays look at Bearden’s thematic presentation of African American spirituality in relation to his experiments with form and technique. They trace his visual musings on African, Caribbean, and African American expressive mysticism and examine his magical reinvention of pictorial space and time.
This catalog accompanies an exhibition of the same title at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, which will be on display from March 4, 2006 through July 16, 2006. Together, they build on the findings of The Art of Romare Beaden, a major retrospective organized by the National Gallery of Art that toured nationwide.