Solidary & Solitary: The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection

Opening: Monday, Jan 28, 2019 7 – 8:30 pm
Tuesday, Jan 29 – May 19, 2019

The University of Chicago
5550 S. Greenwood
Chicago, IL 60637


Solidary & Solitary tells the history of art by African-American artists, with a particular emphasis on abstraction, from the 1940s to the present moment. That story is a complicated one, woven from the threads of debates about how to represent blackness, social struggle and change, and global migrations and diasporas.

The exhibition is drawn from the Pamela J. Joyner and Alfred J. Giuffrida Collection, and explores abstraction, broadly understood, as a meaningful political focus, rather than a stylistic preference. For black artists, abstraction is charged with the refusal of representation that is socially dictated, both by racist stereotypes of the dominant culture, and the pressure from within the black community to create positive imagery. Abstract art as a practice embodies the possibility of individual freedom and autonomy, even within larger social identities.

Solidary & Solitary ties together artists like Norman Lewis and Mark Bradford in an intergenerational history and presents a story of mutual aid and care, of artistic inspiration—the power for a young artist of seeing another black person as a creative producer. It also examines the historical role of African-American collectors who have made it possible for generations of artists to sustain a livelihood and career outside the mainstream. Today, those collectors, together with scholars, curators, and other supporters, have been instrumental in claiming a seat at the central table for these artists.