bearden untitled 01

Romare Bearden and the Politics of Abstraction

Presented by Wa Na Wari & The Frye Museum

Date & Time:

Sunday, July 24, 2022
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM


Christies Theater

Inye Wokoma (artist and co-founder of Wa Na Wari) and Georgia Erger (Associate Curator, Frye Art Museum) will discuss artist Romare Bearden’s engagement with the aesthetics and politics of abstraction. Between 1952 and 1964, Bearden created an extraordinary, yet little known body of abstract works, which is represented in the Frye Art Museum’s current exhibition Romare Bearden: Abstraction. These works, which incorporate diverse influences ranging from Abstract Expressionist soak-stain and Chinese calligraphy techniques to artist collaborations with the Spiral group, occupy a liminal space between abstraction and representation. They directly inform Bearden’s later collages, richly narrative depictions of fragmented human figures that loom large and vibrant in Black popular consciousness and contemporary media.

This talk will examine Bearden’s impulses to abstract and deconstruct, charting a trajectory of radical material experimentations and artistic collaborations. It will also consider the historical neglect of Bearden’s abstract work, and Black Abstraction at large. Culminating in the mid 1960s, at the height of the civil rights movement, Bearden’s decade of experimentation with abstraction reflects the myriad political realities Black artists navigate in engaging formalism and activism, alike.

Inye Wokoma is a journalist, filmmaker and visual artist who explores themes of identity, community, history, land, politics, and power through the lens of personal and visual narratives. He is co-founder of Wa Na Wari, an immersive community art project in Seattle’s Central District that reclaims Black cultural space and makes a statement about the importance of Black land ownership in gentrified communities.

Georgia Erger is Associate Curator at the Frye Art Museum and the organizer of the Frye’s presentation of the traveling exhibition Romare Bearden: Abstraction.

Romare Bearden: Abstraction is organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Neuberger Museum of Art of Purchase College, State University of New York. The exhibition is curated by Tracy Fitzpatrick, Director, Neuberger Museum of Art. Major support for Romare Bearden: Abstraction is provided by Morgan Stanley. The presentation at the Frye Art Museum is organized by Georgia Erger, Associate Curator. Generous support for the installation at the Frye is provided by the City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, the Frye Foundation, and Frye Members. Media sponsorship is provided by The Seattle Times.

Romare Bearden: Abstraction is on view at the Frye Art Museum through September 18, 2022.

Image Credits: Romare Bearden. Untitled, ca. 1956. Mixed media over watercolor and ink on paper titled Fra Angelico (1947).19 7/8 x 25 7/8 in. Nanette Bearden Trust, Courtesy of DC Moore Gallery, New York. © Romare Bearden Foundation / VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY Courtesy American Federation of Arts.