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Saturday, September 5, 2015

Beauford at the Tate Liverpool


I first heard the names "Beauford Delaney" and "Glenn Ligon" coupled when Dr. Catherine St. John, former professor at Berkeley College in New Jersey, shared with me an article that she wrote in 2004 about these artists:

Born sixty years apart, artists Beauford Delaney and Glenn Ligon communicate narratives of belonging. The immutable link that connects them is James Baldwin, the writer, whose essay "Stranger in the Village" inspired Ligon to lift words off the page and onto canvas...

- from an abstract for "A Narrative of Belonging: The Art of Beauford Delaney and Glenn Ligon"

When I learned that Tate Liverpool and Nottingham Contemporary in the United Kingdom were presenting a major exhibition curated by Ligon that was to include works by artists who have influenced him or with whom he feels an affinity, I searched eagerly for a mention of Beauford. I found an online article about the exhibition, entitled Encounters and Collisions, which cited the names of a few of the artists who would be represented in the show. Beauford's name was among them.

Upon contacting Tate Liverpool for details, I learned that two of Beauford's paintings are part of the exhibition. One is a portrait of James Baldwin and the other is an untitled abstract:

James Baldwin, c. 1955
Oil on canvasboard
24" x 18"
Collection of halley k harrisburg and Michael Rosenfeld, New York, NY
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Untitled, c. 1958
Oil on canvas
30" x 25", signed and dated
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Beauford painted both of these works during his Paris years.

What was even more exciting for me was to read Ligon's "Letter to Beauford," one of several that he wrote to exhibition participants as part of his written contribution to the catalog. This personal missive explains in simple, personal terms why he selected these two paintings from the show - the critical influence that Baldwin had in both their lives and the inspiration that he, Beauford, and Baldwin drew from jazz and blues music. Ligon comments that "the line between figuration and abstraction is always porous" in Beauford's paintings and that this has inspired "a similar fluidity" in his work. He expresses his hope that his letter isn’t "too presumptuous" and how meaningful Beauford's work is to him personally.

Ligon has also selected literary and critical texts that punctuate the images in the catalog as part of his responsibilities as curator of the show. He includes Baldwin's essay "Stranger in the Village"; an excerpt from Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, where biographer David A. Leeming recounts the story of how he met Beauford; and a scholarly essay called Voices/Forces by Fred Moten, which explores the idea of a black avant-garde through a "trip to Paris" that focuses on the life and work of Beauford, jazz composer and musician Billy Strayhorn, and French dramatist and theater director, Antonin Artaud.

Beauford's portrait of James Baldwin hangs in Room 4 of the exhibition at Tate Liverpool; his abstract hangs in Room 3.

Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions at Tate Liverpool
until 18 October 2015
© Tate Liverpool, Roger Sinek

Tickets for Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions are priced at £10.00 (£7.50 concessions, £5 student ticket). Includes entrance into Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots (also open through October 18, 2015).

To book your tickets in advance, book online at www.tate.org.uk/tickets, call 0151 702 7400 (booking fee applies), or book in person at any Tate gallery.

Tate Liverpool
Albert Dock
Liverpool L3 4BB

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Les Amis de Beauford Delaney and Reid Hall are partnering to bring an exhibition of original Beauford Delaney works to Reid Hall in Paris in February 2016! To sign-up to receive information about this show, click HERE.

1 comment:

Paula Penn said...

Thanks for this wonderful post. This upcoming exhibit sounds absolutely captivating!!