Represent: 200 years of African American Art

Last Thursday, I visited PMA’s new exhibit. With a special tour (perks of being a Teen Council member), I experienced it days before the general public and now I’m bringing the news to you!

We’ve all seen the posters on the bus stops and in the subways: Represent: 200 years of African American Art. I was expecting to see pictures of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other political figures, like the one on the advertisement, plastered on the walls. What I found was a great variety of artwork from pre Civil War spanning to today. The collection is arranged in periods— both political and artistic.  Furniture, sculptures, quilts, and photographs join the paintings on the walls.

Two of my favorite pieces, “Portrait James Baldwin” by Beauford Delaney and a collection of photography, “The Kitchen Table Series” by  Carrie Mae Weems are in this collection and I geeked out when I was able to witness them in front of me and not on a page or a screen.

The exhibit does a great job encompassing the duality and complexity that is the African American condition. Silver-smithed items of a freeman are juxtaposed with “Face Jugs” created by enslaved peoples. While many pieces hold political messages, some works have absolutely nothing to do with civil issues, and are simply celebrations of art (which happened to have been done by African American artists).  I think the apolitical pieces become political because of the artists’ choices to refuse to design their art focusing on their racial status. What defines people and how they express themselves comes from within, ethnic background is not the only contributing factor.

My favorite section of the display is the area towards the back that has a couch. You can sit on it! It is like sitting in someone’s living room and looking at family photos— the couch faces a huge wall of pictures while a soundscape from interviews of different artists in the collection plays. The contrasting and individual ideas from each of the artists show the range of artists’ inspiration and beliefs.

Represent truly captures of the essence of the word, it showcases works of those who expressed themselves. Each artists represents themselves, as well as what their art stood for.

I feel all art is a statement: I am here. I am here. This will be here.


To cite my STAMP Story from a few months ago: “ In 50 years, people will look back to now and it will be our generation that contributed to what they have to see. We are experiencing  history in the making, it is our jobs to leave a legacy, through art, actions, literature, or laws.”


This exhibit has inspired me. I hope you visit and let me  know how you liked it in the comments below!

P.S. Check out the Cool things happening soon at PMA