The Existence of Black Art

Thursday, Aug 1, 2024 1 – 3 pm

5020 S. Cornell
Chicago, IL 60615

Artists, archivists, and curators will discuss the state of Black artists, artist communities, and movements across history and how the overlooked contributions of Black artists have led to movements like AfriCOBRA and the Black Arts Movement, in which Robert Earl Paige was a critical figure. This discussion will speak about the existence, and non-existence, of Black artists in larger art movements, and how artists today are re-contextualizing history and paving their own way for visibility in the contemporary art world. Panelists include Parapluie exhibition artist, the sculptor and muralist Bernard Williams; Antawan I. Byrd, curator; and archivist Skyla S. Hearn. The conversation will be moderated by art historian and Black Arts Movement School Modality Founder, Romi Crawford. 


The exhibition will be accompanied by the first monograph catalog dedicated to Robert Earl Paige and feature essays by Romi Crawford, Gervais Marsh, and Allison Peters Quinn, among others. The publication will be distributed by Hyde Park Art Center’s in-house publishing arm Green Lantern Press.


Robert Earl Paige (b. 1936, Chicago) is an interdisciplinary artist, designer, and educator actively making work that challenges the distinction between fine art and craft by combining elements from African aesthetic traditions, modernist painting, Bauhaus architecture, and vernacular invention in his objects, collages, and fabrics. He earned a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and began his career working for the architectural design firm Skidmore Owings and Merrill before transitioning to creating commercial objects and fashion. He has partnered with commercial enterprises such as the Italian fashion house Fiorio and Sears, Roebuck and Co. department stores to produce scarves and interior decor respectively. His signature line the Dakkabar Collection was sold nationwide in over one hundred Sears stores and included several bedroom and home furnishing pieces inspired by West African imagery with a contemporary palette in the 1970s.

Paige participated early in the Black Arts Movement, and believes strongly in its ideology of community participation in art and culture, which continues to be of focus in his pedagogy today. He has taught art and design principles to youth through Gallery 37 (Chicago) and is a frequent lecturer with the nomadic Black Arts Movement School Modality. Paige has been an artist-in-residence for many organizations, including the Cabrini Green neighborhood alliance, DuSable Museum of African American History, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (New York), Ndebele Foundation (South Africa), and Hyde Park Art Center.  Works by Robert Paige have been exhibited at Salon94 Design and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City, and in Chicago at the SMART Museum of Art and the Chicago Cultural Center, among others.