The United Colors of Robert Earl Paige

Opening: Saturday, Apr 6, 2024 1 – 4 pm
Saturday, Apr 6 – Oct 27, 2024

5020 S. Cornell
Chicago, IL 60615

Hyde Park Art Center, the renowned non‐profit hub for contemporary art located on Chicago’s vibrant South Side, proudly presents The United Colors of Robert Earl Paige, the career-spanning survey of artist, designer, and educator Robert Earl Paige (b. 1936). With multimedia works made between 1964 and 2024, this solo show is the largest presentation of the Chicago native’s work to date, including rarely seen parts of Paige’s collection that explore the artist’s lifelong quest for beauty and equality. The exhibition features public programming made in close collaboration with the community, including a series of public talks with artists and scholars; performance and workshop collaborations with Honey Pot Performance Collective and Hyde Park Jazz Festival; and a series of free community art making activities at the Art Center and unconventional spaces like community gardens, barber shops, laundromats, and churches throughout Chicago’s South Side. Curated by Allison Peters Quinn, Director of Exhibition & Residency Programs at the Hyde Park Art Center, the exhibition is on view from April 6 until October 27, 2024. 

Inspired equally by modernist aesthetics and the traditional basket weaving techniques and symbology of West African cultures, Paige seeks to encourage liberation for all. His signature “Power to the People” design motif of half circles building upward and outward in an organized mesh of individuals expresses how simple gestures and lines can depict solidarity. Visitors will see rounded forms found in nature, wavy lines responding to jazz improvisation, and geometric abstractions guided by Adinkra symbols in African culture.

Raised in the Woodlawn neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, where he still resides, Paige makes artworks in response to the patterns and textures of everyday Black life. Another highlight of the exhibition is the debut of recent clay, wall/floor paintings, and collage made during Paige’s Radicle Residency at Hyde Park Art Center in 2022-23. Recurring themes stand out across decades and medium, demonstrating his steadfast observation of American culture and Black community.

Featuring over one hundred artworks and artifacts from the artist’s personal archive, the expansive exhibition shows how Paige’s work moves beyond the use of commercial textiles for retail, interior design, and fashion, into original silk paintings, drawings, collage, and ceramics. The United Colors of Robert Earl Paige will showcase the dynamic color palette, pattern, and play in the artist’s multimedia works, and feature new and recent rugs, textile, and furniture Paige made in collaboration with Oscar Isberian Rugs, The Weaving Mill/ Emily Winter and artist Jeffrey Robinson for Hyde Park Art Center.

In addition to presenting Paige’s singular graphic style, the show incorporates Paige’s pedagogy as a longtime teaching artist working with youth in the Midwest, Harlem (New York), and South Africa. The exhibition will include a room dedicated to hands-on art making activities grounded in Paige’s principles of design that will be activated weekly with free public workshops led by Community Engagement Fellow, Keny De La Peña.

As part of The United Colors of Robert Earl Paige, the Hyde Park Art Center will present a companion exhibition, Parapluie, in an adjacent gallery that features the works of local artists Paige identifies as being in his peer-to-peer creative network. The parapluie, or umbrella in French, is how Paige describes the circles of artists that mutually support each other and regularly exchange ideas, skills, solutions, and materials.

The exhibition and corresponding public programs are part of Art Design Chicago, a citywide collaboration initiated by the Terra Foundation for American Art that highlights the city’s artistic heritage and creative communities.

Image: Robert Earl Paige, Universal Colours of Paige, 1990. Hand painted and dyed (batik) Crepe de Chine silk