Art 2 – Romare Bearden Due 11/15


Watch this video on Bearden’s Jazz works and pay special note to the rare clip of him in his studio.

Watch the clip on Bearden from Robert Hughes “Empire of Signs”  (after Rauschenberg, around 2:15 until 6:00)

Comment  thoughtfully on ideas concerning:

a: the development of his art,

b: the uniqueness of his style in the 60’s and 70’s,

c: his manner of linking personal themes from African American culture with art historical precedents or broader humanistic themes, and

d: anything else you may want to add to the discussion about Bearden.


10 responses »

  1. I believe that when we watched the video about Romare Bearden in class on Thursday in class, the narrator said that in the beginning, Romare Bearden used colored paper and photos from magazines in his collages. Later in life, he switched to using just colored paper. After he spent a lot of time in the Caribbean, he did more works of art incorporating the flora and fauna that he saw there, as opposed to the street and jazz scenes from New York. Romare Bearden’s art had a unique style in the 1960’s and 1970’s because he is portraying everyday life of African Americans, which was not common then. He linked African American culture and history with art in the images he used and portrayed in his art. He would take a famous painting and make it his own by changing the ethnicity of the figures and placing them in a jazz or New York City setting. He also incorporated African tribal masks into his collages, linking old culture with new.

  2. Based on what I learned about Romare Bearden from the movie we watched in class, I thought it was very interesting how Bearden tried out so many different art styles and mediums. He eventually found his calling in the mixed media art style but earlier on he experimented with many art techniques including abstract artwork and watercolor. One of the aspects that I really appreciate about Beaden’s mixed media artwork is that he develops it like he would develop a song, which adds a certain rhythm and music into the composition that could not otherwise be captured. He also incorporates a type of organized chaos that emulates the disorder of living but at the same time is not overwhelming and, instead of deterring the viewer, it draws them in. During the 60’s and 70’s Bearden also started to use newspaper clippings and magazine pictures, incorporating deeper political and social themes. He created many pieces of artwork that captured African American life, which was something that most artists at the time steered clear of. While he was not an artist who tried to represent people one hundred percent realistically, he achieved an intensity and life in his representations of African American culture that most artists would not have been able to attain.

  3. I thought the divelopement of his art was very interesting. He went from screen printing to painting about political things happening around him, to works about blacks being minorities and even just painting what he felt. Also the uniquness of his style in the sixties and seventies striked me as interesting. He had to have some courage to be able to paint black people because they were seen as somewhat of an abstract image said one of the guys in the video. I also noticed he used alot more clippings from political things and images of things that could stir up some serious conflict or disproval of his work. Also the linking of his life to personal themes was alot like what we are doing in class. He took works of other artists and made the characters black or people from his family to perhaps create more of a personal feel to the painting…thus having a more striking effect. I liked the way he thought out of the box..and kept most of his work to document his process and thoughts. I think that is a very important aspect of art….to preserve the process

  4. I really like how Bearden’s works evolved similarly to that of other abstract artists like Picasso and Matisse – from fairly realistic and detail oriented to bigger concept paintings with DEFINING features that weren’t necessarily. What’s really different about Bearden is that he captured a part of America that few people really wanted to cover: African-American life before equality became more universal. Bearden was really able to to capture the lifestyle and culture of the Jazz era and Harlem with really bright colors and less refined edges and finishes to his works. It’s really layered work, and I’m not totally captivated by his earlier work, but as he moves towards a more Matisse-like approach to collage, I really love the ideas he brings out. In the 60s and 70s, Romare Bearden was definitely more about the political and social effects of his artwork, but he eventually moved a little further away from that and went for a more subtle approach to issues.

  5. bearden came to his process much like a jazz artist comes to complete a piece. he improvised, integrating layers of meaning and complexity, taking things back to simple origins and then cluttering the canvasses with so much action the eye hardly knows where to land. he developed his unique style of collage over decades of work, and his finished products integrate classical imagery, personal cameos, and abstract expressionism. bearden’s style deviated from the collage norm during the sixties and seventies when he began to incorporated images of african tribal culture into his works. his goal was to represent the mixed heritage of african americans and the cultural burdens placed upon them by slavery. in contrast to the other black collagists of the time, he mixed the tribal symbols and masks into westernized portraiture and imagery. creating striking and dynamic pictures.

  6. Bearden made his very unique style after trying out different mediums of art such as watercolor and abstractions. When I was first watching the movie, I thought that his pieces were very simplistic— pasting colored paper to a colored background. But after learning more about his styles and intents and also doing my own Bearden inspired piece, I realize that his work was very complex even if it was not realistic. I like how we are able to follow his progression in his art career. My favorite art stage was the jazz scenes. A lot of times I think that we think we can’t base art on our own lives and things that have been important to us in the past because they aren’t creative enough. Bearden is inspirational in that way because he uses his childhood and themes he grew up around to shape the theme of his artwork. I also find that his color usage is very creative and adds a lot to his pieces because it shows livelyness is an abstract way. This idea has been very influential to my own piece I have been working on is class this week.

  7. Bearden’s work goes on differently with the time by. What the difference between his old time work and later work are that he made such a huge a progress. In the old time, his painting seems like it
    missed some spirit and thoughts. He could not describe the thing he wants to express on the paint. But later, we all can see his paint of people. trees…are all full of his thoughts and make people understand what he is describing. And the unique of his paints came out. His paintings are very complex and relate to lives. Everytime I see his work, I can feel the hardness of life and the complex of the society. May be the feature of his work comes from he is an african american. Life for blacks
    were hard that time.

  8. Bearden probably has one of the most diverse artistic styles I’ve seen. He definitely was not an artist who wanted to be defined by one category or style of art. His paintings reflect a lot of different jumbled ideas, but overall he seems especially interested in the theme of people, especially African Americans, pop culture, and ideas about society and culture. He puts a lot of emphasis on the faces of the people in his art, and their expressions are often hard to read which definitely makes the viewer stop and think for a moment. Interpreting Bearden’s art involves many seperate considerations: the subjects’ facial expressions, the background, and the color scheme. He uses this variety of techniques to convey emotion. I think that his work had a peculiarity to it that set it apart from the work of other artists during his time period, and the themes he explored showed a lot about the life of African American people and their exposure and relation to pop culture and society, something that I think most whites wouldn’t have been very aware of, especially in the early years of Bearden’s career.

    • His style was certainly unique for the time and even though he had influence from the collages of Braque and Picasso, he transformed it. I think his influence in collage can be seen all around us even today, especially in advertising and book illustration.

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