Odyssey: A long, eventful, and epic journey.
On October 30th, Roy Nydorf’s Drawing II class went on their own odyssey to the Reynolda House Museum in Winston-Salem…
Their mission? To view the current traveling display (courtesy of The Smithsonian) of Romare Bearden’s “A Black Odyssey” in all its epic glory…
What follows is the only existing record of the journey…
When you first walk into the exhibit, Bearden’s words greet you: “All of us…are on a kind of Odyssey.” The exhibit was first created for a show in 1977 in Manhattan, and reads – or rather, views – Homer’s “The Odyssey” through a kind of African American criticism lens (so that Sociology general education requirement comes in handy). All the characters, like Odysseus and Penelope, are represented as African Americans. Bearden says that he interpreted the poem’s story as if it were happening in Africa. There are large collages with titles repurposed from “The Odyssey” like the “Fall of Troy,” which mirrors the Civil War and race riots of the 1960s. The Fall of Troy in “The Odyssey” and these American historical events both depict “hard-won, painful changes,” as the exhibit readings say. There are also watercolor images that are smaller replicas done later of the much larger collages.
Some marks of the artist are left behind for the viewer to see. Does Bearden wish to include us as viewers into his experience? I certainly think so, or else why would his subject be so thought-provoking? In the pieces themselves, you can see influence from Cubism and such masters like Matisse in his color and line use. Also, the influence of Egyptian and African art is very prevalent. These influences are further discussed in the exhibit itself. His strategic use of color is a definite advantage, and although the works are mostly collages, the attention to detail is, as Roy described it, “delightful.” Bearden accounts for every detail – even half-inch long feet are attended to expertly. It’s hard to believe it’s all cut out with scissors!
This trip connects to the class because Drawing II draws (no pun intended) from diverse social influences from our world. Romare Bearden has taken a classical literary work and given it a more narrow applicable social context. This will apply to the next subject Roy has in store for Drawing II when they take a look at African American art.
For more information on Reynolda House, visit their website: www.reynoldahouse.org
To see photographs of the art, see the Smithsonian website: http://www.sites.si.edu/exhibitions/exhibits/romareBearden/index.htm
And by the way…Happy Halloween!
*’Requiem for a Dream soundtrack/Lux Aeterna by Clint Mansell