Rhapsodies in Black: Art of the Harlem Renaissance

Hayward Gallery

Hayward Gallery, 19 June – 17 August 1997

Rhapsodies in Black: Art of the Harlem Renaissance was a transatlantic collaboration between the Hayward Gallery, the Institute of International Visual Arts (INIVA) London, and the Cocoran Gallery, Washington. Co-curated by the American academic Richard J Powell, and the British curator David Bailey, it brought together painting, sculpture and photography, as well as rare archival film and sound recordings, to explore the Harlem Renaissance as a movement of global significance.

The exhibition featured works including James VanDerZee's photographs of celebrities, dancers, families and weddings of Harlem; Aaron Douglas’s jazz-inspired paintings; and Jacob Lawrence's epic series Toussaint L’Ouverture – 41 paintings chronicling the slave revolution in Haiti in 1804.

It was divided into six sections which roughly traced the chronology of the movement and, and drew out thematically salient issues, including 'The Cult of the Primitive'.

Alongside the exhibition, the artistic achievements of the Harlem Renaissance were celebrated in a series of readings, performances, talks and a conference, while the Hayward Gallery café was transformed into a jazz café with music selected by broadcaster Paul Oliver.

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