Curated by renowned English and jazz scholar Robert G. O’Meally, the Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and Comparative Literature and founder and former director of the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University, the Smithsonian exhibition features some 55 works, including collages, watercolors and line drawings as well as additional compositions relating to Bearden’s interest in classical themes.
In 1977, Romare Bearden (1911-1988), one of the most powerful and original artists of the 20th century, created a cycle of collages and watercolors based on Homer’s epic poem, “The Odyssey.” Rich in symbolism and allegorical content, Bearden’s “Odysseus Series” created an artistic bridge between classical mythology and African American culture. The works conveyed a sense of timelessness and the universality of the human condition, but their brilliance was displayed for only two months in New York City before being scattered to private collections and public art museums. This exhibition represents the first full-scale presentation of these works outside of New York City.
SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for nearly 60 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play.