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Black Artists of Oregon

Sep 9, 2023 - Mar 31, 2024
1219 SW Park Ave, Portland, OR
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Overview

Considering both the presence and absence of Black artists is critical to understanding the breadth of Black artistic production in Oregon—even in the midst of historic exclusion—as well as how the impact of that history affects our understanding of American art history and the history of the Pacific Northwest. This exhibition serves to deepen our awareness of the talented artists who have shaped and inspired artists regionally and nationally, and it will be the first of its kind to consider the work of Black artists collectively in Oregon.

Beginning in the 1880s and spanning through today, Black Artists of Oregon captures the Black diasporic experiences particular to the Pacific Northwest with 69 artists and over 200 objects. Artists represented in the exhibition will include Thelma Johnson Streat, Al Goldsby, Charlotte Lewis, Isaka Shamsud-Din, Ralph Chessé, Charles Tatum, Arvie Smith, Shedrich Williames, Harrison Branch, Bobby Fouther, and Carrie Mae Weems, among others. The exhibition and programming will also include the works of contemporary and younger artists working now, functioning as bright threads and offering intergenerational conversation throughout the exhibition, including sidony o’neal, Jeremy Okai Davis, damali ayo, Sharita Towne, Melanie Stevens, Lisa Jarrett, Tristan Irving, Ebin Lee, and Jaleesa Johnston.

“An intergenerational exhibit featuring 67 Black artists all cut from remarkably unique cloths, creating a metaphorical (or spiritual) quilt that is as diverse as it is dynamic as it is impactful as it is stunning.”

Brianna Wheeler, Willamette Week

Through the narrative flow of the exhibition, visitors will experience work by Black artists across decades and generations. Particular attention is given to the works of Black artists who were producing work during the Black Arts Movement of the late 1960s, ’70s, and early ’80s, such as Portland-based painter Isaka Shamsud-Din. The exhibition will also mark regional artistic connections with global movements for Black liberation, as seen in the work of Charlotte Lewis alongside Portlanders Organized for Southern African Freedom and artists like Sadé DuBoise, whose “Resistance” poster series contributed to Portland’s 2020 George Floyd protests. Without chronological constraints, the exhibition is grounded by the work of elder artists, intergenerational conversations, and live activation in the exhibition galleries.

“Walking through Black Artists of Oregon, the ambitious exhibition currently on display at the Portland Art Museum, it’s impossible not to be impressed by the range and power of the work”

Kristi Turnquist, The Oregonian

Black Artists of Oregon builds upon exhibition curator Intisar Abioto’s original research since 2018 exploring the lineage and legacy of Black artists in Oregon. The exhibition will continue Abioto’s research, which is grounded in Black American practices of listening, keeping, and passing on each others’ stories.

“Far from isolated or ancillary, Black arts and cultural production in Oregon has been in conversation and interchange with the world, and a part of its arts and cultural movements, all this time,” says Abioto. “Black Artists of Oregon is a heralding of Black presence, interchange, influence, and impact.”

Painting of an older black man in overalls and a short-sleeved white button down shirt with his hands clasped in front of him. Behind him are plants and a garden and a pink building behind the garden.

Isaka Shamsud-Din, Rock of Ages, 1976, oil, gold leaf, and mirror on canvas, Gift of Roxie Schell and Damon Tempey, © Isaka Shamsud-Din, 2018.36.1
Black and white close-up photo of vegetable leaves
Harrison Branch (American, born 1947), Untitled, Corvallis, Oregon, 1975, gelatin silver print, image: 7 5/16 in x 9 1/2 in; sheet: 13 1/2 in x 15 3/4 in, Gift of the Photography Council, © unknown, research required, 2002.58.4
Black and white photo of a hand holding a lock in front of a wooden door
Shedrich Williames (American, born 1934), Untitled, 1972, gelatin silver print, image: 13 3/16 in x 10 3/8 in; sheet: 14 in x 10 15/16 in, Gift of Al Monner, ©unknown, research required, 94.36.1

Black Artists of Oregon podcast

The Museum is proud to collaborate on this Black Artists of Oregon podcast through its ongoing community partnership with The Numberz FM.  Interviews and conversations were recorded and published throughout the run of the exhibition. 

  • Episode 1 –  Exhibition curator, Intisar Abioto, in conversation with DJ Ambush, former Numberz executive director
  • Episode 2 – Intisar Abioto in conversation with artist Nick Jones
  • Episode 3 – Intisar Abioto in conversation with artist Adriene Cruz
  • Episode 4 – Intisar Abioto in conversation with artists Melanie Stevens and Rupert Kinnard
  • Episode 5 – Intisar Abioto in conversation with artist damali ayo
  • Episode 6 – Intisar Abioto in conversation with artist Richard Brown
  • Episode 7 – Intisar Abioto in conversation with artist Arvie Smith
  • Episode 8 – Intisar Abioto in conversation with artists Geeta Lewis and Roux Haile
  • Episode 9 – Intisar Abioto in conversation with artists Isaka Shamsud Din & Anthony Jordan

Resources

Black and white photo of a hand holding a lock in front of a wooden door

View the works in our permanent collection
Page from Black Artists of Oregon activity guide
Black Artists of Oregon Activity Guide
Photograph of a group of kids sitting listening to an educator in the Black Artists of Oregon exhibition
Educator resources
Hand holding phone with Bloomberg Connects app on it
Free digital guide

Discover

Acknowledgements

Presenting Sponsors

  • Institute of Museum and Library Services
  • Meyer Memorial Trust

Lead Sponsor

  • Terra Foundation for American Art

Major Sponsor

  • The Ford Family Foundation

Sponsors

  • Bonhams
  • Ed Cauduro Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation
  • Oregon Heritage Commission
  • Rena and Cheryl Tonkin and Marv Tonkin Leasing Company in memory of Alan Baron Tonkin

Additional support provided by the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Endowment for Northwest Art and the Museum’s Artist Fund.