Focusing on the theme of man’s relationship to architectural structures: the dwelling that makes a home, the residences that make a community, the buildings that make a city, this historic exhibition illustrates the way in which architecture has symbolized stability, domesticity, economic security and patriotism within the African American community.
From a rustic farmhouse to a bustling urban street corner, from intimate interiors to the expanse of landscape, the work in this exhibition portrays the way in which architectural building symbolized ownership, home, and community. These works evoke both familial and isolationist sentiment indicative of the search for a communal African American identity. Jacob Lawrence described this relationship: “My pictures express my life and experience. I paint the things I know about, the things I have experienced. The things I have experienced extend into my national, racial and class group. So I paint the American Scene.” (Bearden, Romare and Harry Henderson, A History of African-American Artists, New York: Pantheon Books (1993), p. 314)
Building Community consists of paintings and works on paper by a select group of influential figures of 20th century African American artist including Charles Alston, Romare Bearden, John Biggers, Eldzier Cortor, Allan Rohan Crite, Beauford Delaney, Joseph Delaney, Aaron Douglas, Robert S. Duncanson, Allan Freelon, William H. Johnson, Jacob Lawrence, Hughie Lee-Smith, Norman Lewis, Horace Pippin, William Edourd-Scott, Henry Ossawa Tanner, James VanDerZee and Hale Woodruff.