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Exhibitions/ History Refused to Die: Highlights from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation Gift

History Refused to Die: Highlights from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation Gift

At The Met Fifth Avenue
May 22–September 23, 2018

Exhibition Catalogue

Nearly sixty remarkable artworks and insightful texts illustrate the significance of contemporary Black artists working in the southeastern U.S.

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Exhibition Overview

This exhibition presents thirty paintings, sculptures, drawings, and quilts by self-taught contemporary African American artists to celebrate the 2014 gift to The Metropolitan Museum of Art of works of art from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. The artists represented by this generous donation all hail from the American South.

History Refused to Die features the mixed-media art of Thornton Dial (1928–2016)—whose monumental assemblage from 2004 provides the exhibition's title—and a selection of the renowned quilts from Gee's Bend, Alabama, by quilters such as Annie Mae Young (1928–2012), Lucy Mingo (born 1931), Loretta Pettway (born 1942), and additional members of the extended Pettway family. Among other accomplished artists to be featured are Nellie Mae Rowe (1900–1982), Lonnie Holley (born 1950), and Ronald Lockett (1965–1988).

Remarkably diverse in media and technique, the works in this exhibition nonetheless suggest their makers' cultural and aesthetic kinship through the use of found and repurposed materials. Their subjects are likewise varied, rooted in personal history and experience, regional identity—particularly common legacies of slavery and post-Reconstruction histories of oppression under the Black Codes and Jim Crow laws—in addition to national and international events.

Accompanied by a catalogue.

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" . . . transforms the Met's encyclopedic footprint while also being of a piece of its longtime efforts to collect African art and American folk art." —New York Times

"A sharply focused, elegantly installed selection of 29 stellar works . . ." —Wall Street Journal

"Neither folk, outsider, self-taught, nor outlier, this work by little-known artists touched with greatness is exhibited on its own merits." —Nation

"a validation" —Hyperallergic

"It is a salve to see an exhibition as succinct, as purposeful, intelligently designed and filled with good art . . ." Art Newspaper

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in

Exhibition Objects

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Installation view of History Refused to Die

Learn more about the artists of the Birmingham-Bessemer School, Gee's Bend quilters, and the exhibition at The Met in a blog series published in conjunction with the exhibition.

Thornton Dial (American, 1928–2016). History Refused to Die (detail), 2004. Okra stalks and roots, clothing, collaged drawings, tin, wire, steel, Masonite, steel chain, enamel, and spray paint, 8 ft. 6 in. x 87 in. x 23 in. (259.1 x 221 x 58.4 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Souls Grown Deep Foundation from the William S. Arnett Collection, 2014 (2014.548.1). © 2018 Estate of Thornton Dial / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York