Focusing on the work of Black potters in the 19th-century American South, this landmark exhibition presents approximately 50 ceramic objects from Old Edgefield District, South Carolina, a center of stoneware production in the decades before the Civil War, together with contemporary responses.
“Hear Me Now” tells a story about art and enslavement—and about the joy, struggle, creative ambition, and lived experience of African Americans in the decades before the Civil War. The exhibition features many objects never before seen outside of the South, bringing together monumental storage jars by the enslaved and literate potter and poet Dave or David Drake (about 1800–about 1870) with rare examples of the region’s utilitarian wares and powerful face vessels by unrecorded makers.
It also links past to present, in part by including the work of leading contemporary Black artists who have responded to or whose practice resonates with the Edgefield story. Established figures like Theaster Gates and Simone Leigh, as well as younger, emerging artists like Adebunmi Gbadebo, Woody De Othello, and Robert Pruitt, have contributed to the show. Working primarily in clay, these artists respond to the legacy of the Edgefield potters and consider the resonance of this history for audiences today.
Co-organized with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the exhibition is accompanied by a scholarly publication and informed by new scientific research. The show will additionally travel to the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.