The Romare Bearden Reader

Book Pages: 424 Illustrations: 63 illustrations, incl. 10 in color Published: June 2019

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, Art and Visual Culture > Art History

The Romare Bearden Reader brings together a collection of new essays and canonical writings by novelists, poets, historians, critics, and playwrights. The contributors, who include Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison, August Wilson, Farah Jasmine Griffin, and Kobena Mercer, contextualize Bearden's life and career within the history of modern art, examine the influence of jazz and literature on his work, trace his impact on twentieth-century African American culture, and outline his art's political dimensions. Others focus on specific pieces, such as A Black Odyssey, or the ways in which Bearden used collage to understand African American identity. The Reader also includes Bearden's most important writings, which grant readers insight into his aesthetic values and practices and share his desire to tell what it means to be black in America. Put simply, The Romare Bearden Reader is an indispensable volume on one of the giants of twentieth-century American art.

Contributors. Elizabeth Alexander, Romare Bearden, Mary Lee Corlett, Rachel DeLue, David C. Driskell, Brent Hayes Edwards, Ralph Ellison, Henri Ghent, Farah Jasmine Griffin, Harry Henderson, Kobena Mercer, Toni Morrison, Albert Murray, Robert G. O’Meally, Richard Powell, Richard Price, Sally Price, Myron Schwartzman, Robert Burns Stepto, Calvin Tomkins, John Edgar Wideman, August Wilson


"Jazz music, politics, and black culture are the primary themes ofBearden's paintings and collages, while his writing-including the eight examples in this collection-lay bare his aesthetic values and practices. Essays by twenty contributors, from scholar Robert G. O'Meally to novelists Toni Morrison and Ralph Ellison, contextualize Bearden's oeuvre and assess his impact on twentieth-century African American culture." — Art in America

"The varied voices here make this a go-to resource for constructing Bearden's enigmatic, seductively structured art. . . . This is the finest overall consideration of Bearden's ouevre yet, and a fulsome tribute to a justly revered artist." — Douglas F. Smith, Library Journal

"Relatively few titles provide in-depth explorations of the intellectual lives of African American artists. This reader does so in a comprehensive–and compelling–manner, and should be considered an important addition to art and literary criticism collections, useful for artists, musicians, writers, and others." — Lynora Williams, ARLIS/NA

“Robert G. O'Meally has curated an astonishing array of commentary on the work of one of the twentieth century's most innovative artists, the inimitable Romare Bearden. Whereas Bearden's status as one of the African American tradition's greatest artists has long been secure, this collection is indicative of a welcome surge in interest among scholars, critics, and biographers in Bearden's life, works, and place in the canon. O'Meally has done us a great service in assembling some of the most thoughtful reflections on the work of one of the geniuses of modernism.” — Henry Louis Gates Jr.

The Romare Bearden Reader is for all those—both in and outside the academy—who continue to be enchanted by Bearden's art and are eager to see and learn more about the work of this tremendous artist. This volume is the definitive Bearden anthology.” — Margo Natalie Crawford, author of Black Post-Blackness: The Black Arts Movement and Twenty-First-Century Aesthetics


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Price: $30.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Robert G. O’Meally is Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and Comparative Literature and the Director of the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
"Pressing on Life Until It Gave Back Something in Kinship": An Introductory Essay / Robert G. O'Meally  1
Part I. Life and Times
Putting Something over Something Else / Calvin Tomkins  31
Interview with Romare Bearden / Henri Ghent  54
Part II. Writings
The Negro Artist and Modern Art / Romare Bearden  87
The Negro Artist's Dilemma / Romare Bearden  91
The Journal of Romare Bearden: 1947 to 1949 / Romare Bearden  99
Rectangular Structure in My Montage Paintings / Romare Bearden  121
The Twenties and the Black Renaissance / Romare Bearden and Harry Henderson  133
The 1930s: An Art Reminiscence / Romare Bearden  156
Humility / Romare Bearden  162
Encounters with African Art / Romare Bearden  164
Part III. Reflections on a Layered Legacy
Bearden: Black Life on Its Own Terms / August Wilson  175
Abrupt Stops and an Unexpected Liquidity: The Aesthetics of Romare Bearden / Toni Morrison  178
The Genius of Romare Bearden / Elizabeth Alexander  185
The Art of Romare Bearden / Ralph Ellison  196
Bearden / Ralph Ellison  204
Between the Shadow and the Act / John Edgar Wideman  209
Romare Bearden: African American Modernism at Mid-Century / Kobena Mercer  217
Bearden Plays Bearden / Albert Murray  236
The Political Bearden / Brent Hayes Edwards  256
Circe in Black: Homer, Toni Morrison, Romare Bearden / Farah Jasmine Griffin  270
Conjure and Collapse in the Art of Romare Bearden / Rachael Delue  281
Changing, Conjuring Reality / Richard Powell  296
Romare Bearden's Li'l Dan the Drummer Boy: Coloring a Story of the Civil War / Robert Burns Stepto  307
Impressions and Improvisations: A Look at the Prints of Romare Bearden / Mary Lee Corlett  315
Bearden's Caribbean Dimension / Sally Price and Richard Price  351
Sheer Mastery: Romare Bearden's Final Year / Myron Schwartzman  363
Romare Bearden, an Idelible Imprint / David C. Driskell  379
Selected References  389
Index  393
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0058-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0044-0
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