12-05-2023  10:07 am   •   PDX and SEA Weather
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 28 August 2023

This fall, the Portland Art Museum presents Black Artists of Oregon. This exhibition highlights and celebrates the work of Black artists in Oregon over more than a century, exploring this history both through the lens of Black artists whose works are represented in the Museum’s collection as well as the works of influential artists who, historically, have not been exhibited or held in museum collections. Black Artists of Oregon opens Sept. 9, and will be on view through March 17, 2024, with a temporary closure from November 26 through January 17 to accommodate construction at the museum.

Considering both the presence and absence of Black artists is critical to understanding the breadth of Black artistic production in Oregon—even in the midst of historic exclusion—as well as how the impact of that history affects our understanding of American art history and the history of the Pacific Northwest. This exhibition serves to deepen the public’s awareness of the talented artists who have shaped and inspired artists regionally and nationally, and it will be the first of its kind to consider the work of Black artists collectively in Oregon.

black artists of portland tapestry med(Photo/ Portland Art Museum)

Beginning in the 1880s and spanning through today, Black Artists of Oregon captures Black diasporic experiences particular to the Pacific Northwest with 67 artists and over 200 objects. Artists represented in the exhibition will include Thelma Johnson Streat, Al Goldsby, Charlotte Lewis, Isaka Shamsud-Din, Ralph Chessé, Charles Tatum, Arvie Smith, Shedrich Williames, Harrison Branch, Bobby Fouther, and Carrie Mae Weems, among others. The exhibition and programming will also include the works of contemporary and younger artists working now, functioning as bright threads and offering intergenerational conversation throughout the exhibition, including sidony o’neal, Jeremy Okai Davis, damali ayo, Sharita Towne, Melanie Stevens, Lisa Jarrett, Tristan Irving, Ebin Lee, and Jaleesa Johnston.

Through the narrative flow of the exhibition, visitors will experience work by Black artists across decades and generations. Particular attention is given to the works of Black artists who were producing work during the Black Arts Movement of the late 1960s, 70s, and early 80s, such as Portland-based painter Isaka Shamsud-Din. The exhibition will also mark regional artistic connections with global movements for Black liberation, as seen in the work of Charlotte Lewis alongside Portlanders Organized for Southern African Freedom and artists like Sadé DuBoise, whose “Resistance” poster series contributed to Portland’s 2020 George Floyd protests. Without chronological constraints, the exhibition is grounded by the work of elder artists, intergenerational conversations and live activation in the exhibition galleries.

Events and resources 

Black Artists of Oregon builds upon guest curator Intisar Abioto’s original research since 2018 exploring the lineage and legacy of Black artists in Oregon. The exhibition will continue Abioto’s research, which is grounded in Black American practices of listening, keeping and passing on each others’ stories.

PAM public programs in conjunction with Black Artists of Oregon will deepen visitors’ understanding of this history, kicking off with Keepers of OurStory: A Discussion with Black Elder Artists, an opening panel discussion on September 9 that will be facilitated by Abioto with featured artists Adriene Cruz, Bobby Fouther, Richard Brown and Isaka Shamsud-Din. Additional artist talks, panel discussions and performances will be announced, including a Resonance Ensemble concert curated by Damien Geter and the Alan Ostrow Memorial Lecture highlighting Black image-making, both coming in early 2024. A Black Artists of Oregon podcast in partnership with The Numberz FM launched August 17 and will amplify the work of Black artists and creatives through recorded interviews and conversations throughout the run of the exhibition. The voices of Black artists will also be centered in PAM’s exhibition audio guide offered through the Bloomberg Connects app.

“Far from isolated or ancillary, Black arts and cultural production in Oregon has been in conversation and interchange with the world, and a part of its arts and cultural movements, all this time,” says Abioto. “Black Artists of Oregon is a heralding of Black presence, interchange, influence and impact.”

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