Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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The Block

Artist:
Romare Bearden (American, Charlotte, North Carolina 1911–1988 New York)
Date:
1971
Medium:
Cut and pasted printed, colored and metallic papers, photostats, graphite, ink marker, gouache, watercolor, and ink on Masonite
Dimensions:
48 x 216 in. (121.9 x 548.6 cm)
Classification:
Drawings
Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Shore, 1978
Accession Number:
1978.61.1-.6
Rights and Reproduction:
Art © Romare Bearden Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Not on view
"The Block" is a tribute to Harlem, a neighborhood in New York City that nurtured both the life and work of artist Romare Bearden. Although he was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Bearden spent part of each year in New York throughout his childhood. In 1940 he established his first studio in Harlem, at 306 West 125th Street, in the same building as the artist Jacob Lawrence and the poet­novelist Claude McKay. During the 1940s Bearden was active in the Harlem cultural community as part of the informal artists' organization known as the 306 Group and as a member of the Harlem Artists Guild.


Each of the six panels of "The Block" presents an aspect of life in Harlem, depicting such neighborhood institutions as the Evangelical church, the barbershop, and the corner grocery store. Bearden took artistic license in revealing the private moments of tenement life as well as the exuberant humanity that existed in the prototypical city block. His concern with social issues reflects the influence of the German artist George Grosz, with whom Bearden had studied at the Art Students League in the 1930s. The "Cubist" character of Bearden's cut-paper collage, a technique with which he is associated, resulted from formal experimentation, the documentary impulse of Dadaist photomontage, and Bearden's own modern vision, which matured during the 1940s and 1950s.


The original installation of this work included a tape recording of street sounds to enhance the viewer's visual experience of the work, but even without this accompaniment the vitality of the scene is palpable.

Inscription: Signed (upper right, in pen): Romare Bearden; (upper left): Romare Bearden; (lower left, in red pencil): Romare Bearden
Shorewood Publishers, New York (in 1971); Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Shore, Bridgehampton, N. Y. (until 1978; their gift to MMA)

New York. Andrew Crispo Gallery. "Twelve Americans, Masters of Collage: Bearden, Cornell, Courtright, Dole, Dove, Krasner, Motherwell, Rauschenberg, Reinhardt, Ryan, Stella, Wesselmann," November 17–December 30, 1977, no. 13 (lent by Sherwood Publishers, New York).

Albany. New York State Senate. "Twelve Americans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art," May 5–June 20, 1980, unnumbered cat. (p. 7).

Charlotte, N. C. Mint Museum of Art. "Romare Bearden: 1970–1980," October 12, 1980–January 4, 1981, no. 50.

Baltimore Museum of Art. "Romare Bearden: 1970–1980," April 30–June 14, 1981, no. 50.

Bronx Museum of the Arts. "The Artist Celebrates New York: Selected Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," February 2–March 24, 1985, unnum. brochure.

Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus. "The Artist Celebrates New York: Selected Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 17–June 2, 1985, unnum. brochure.

Queens. Jamaica Arts Center. "The Artist Celebrates New York: Selected Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 15–July 27, 1985, unnum. brochure.

Staten Island Museum. "The Artist Celebrates New York: Selected Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 8–October 20, 1985, unnum. brochure.

New York. City College of New York. "The Artist Celebrates New York: Selected Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 25–December 13, 1985, unnum. brochure.

Pleasantville, N. Y. Reader's Digest. "Faces and Figures: Selected Works by Black Artists from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," February 12–April 1, 1988, brochure no. 5 ("Mirror Barbershop" panel only).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "14 Americans," July 16, 1990–January 2, 1991, unnum. checklist.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "City Life: Around the Eight," August 22, 2000–January 14, 2001, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Romare Bearden at the Met," October 19, 2004–March 6, 2005, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Romare Bearden (1911–1988): A Centennial Celebration," August 30, 2011–March 4, 2012, no catalogue.

M. Bunch Washington. The Art of Romare Bearden : The Prevalence of Ritual. New York, 1972, p. 194, colorpl. 81.

Henry Geldzahler. Twelve Americans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., New York State Senate, Albany. New York, 1980, pp. 3, 6–7, ill.

Lowery S. Sims in 20th Century Art: Selections from the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Vol. 2, Painting: 1945–1985. New York, 1986, pp. 46–47, ill. (color).

William S. Lieberman in 20th Century Art: Selections from the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Vol. 2, Painting: 1945–1985. New York, 1986, p. 7.

Grace Glueck. New York: The Painted City. Salt Lake City, 1992, pp. 10–11, ill.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York, 2012, pp. 432–33, ill. (color).



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