Black Life Matters Feature of the Week: Digging in the Vault

By Candice Frederick
March 16, 2015
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
"New Generation;" Elizabeth Catlett, 1991 PR. 09.004

Art © Catlett Mora Family Trust/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Today's Exhibition Feature of the Week comes from Tammi Lawson, our in-house Curator of the Art and Artifacts Division. Below she shares what inspired her to include the impactful artwork you see in our latest exhibition, Curators' Choice: Black Life Matters

"In keeping with Arturo Schomburg’s tradition of collecting, identifying and acquiring material about black people throughout the Diaspora, I scoured through  our vast holdings of fine art and material culture items looking for works that represent diverse cultures that will enlighten black people so that they will have a positive sense of themselves and connection to a confirmed, accomplished and diverse history. I chose works from different time periods, formats, and media. One new acquisition of note on exhibit for the first time ever is Jacob Lawrenceʼs untitled tempera on board executed in 1941, the same year of his famed Migration Series that is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art and The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.

This selection also includes lithographs by widely respected artist Elizabeth Catlett and paintings by younger and lesser-known artists, including Jules Arthur. The works range from the 19th century to Adinkra symbols from West Africa, little-known collections of African brass bells, and everything in between, including a bevy of woodcuts, lithographs, and etchings from the Bob Blackburn Printmaking Workshop collection. I also chose sculpture in different mediums: Pride, Otto Nealsʼs marble sculpture of a strong black woman; Sana Musasamaʼs ceramic Soweto; and Tree of Life, a Makonde wood carving tradition from Tanzania made out of African blackwood (mpingo), which shows people climbing up and supporting one another.


Finally, I considered the recent murders of young black men in this country and what their mothers go through and the universality of pain and suffering that families deal with, whether they are in Soweto, South Africa, or in the United States."