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Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey

Image: Poseidon, The Sea God, collage, 1977, Courtesy Thompson Collection, Indianapolis, Indiana. Art © Romare Bearden Foundation, Licensed by VAGA, New York

African American artist Romare Bearden’s iconic series of works based on Homer’s The Odyssey returned home last year. The traveling exhibition “Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey”* now on view at Columbia’s Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery closes March 14 and may be the last chance to see these works as a group.

A version of the project was presented in the University’s Global Center in Paris and is scheduled to visit Istanbul and South Africa. The exhibition is part of a yearlong series of programs, lectures and performances inspired by Bearden’s interpretation of Homer’s classic, a staple of Columbia’s undergraduate Core Curriculum.

Odysseus Leaves Circe, water color and graphite on paper, Courtesy of Jerald Melberg Gallery, Charlotte, NC. Art © Romare Bearden Foundation, Licensed by VAGA, New York

Organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in cooperation with the Romare Bearden Foundation and Estate and the DC Moore Gallery, the show was conceived and curated by Robert O’Meally, Columbia’s Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English, and is sponsored by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Bearden (1911–1988) was long a Harlem fixture, working for several years in a studio above the famed Apollo Theater, just a few blocks northeast of campus. “Bearden not only staked a claim to the tales of ancient Greece as having modern relevance, he also made the claim of global cultural collage—that as humans, we are all collages of our unique experiences,” said O’Meally.

Exhibition tour apps for iOS and Android can be found at www.sites.si.edu, and the iPad app Romare Bearden Black Odyssey Remixes is available on iTunes.

*Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey is organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in cooperation with the Romare Bearden Foundation and Estate and DC Moore Gallery. The exhibition and its related educational resources are supported by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

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