Spiral: A Timeless Exhibition of the Studio Museum

By: Dylan Rodgers

The history of art is segmented into eras, movements almost themed with particular inspirations.  The Renaissance, the Baroque, the Impressionist movement, and the Fauvist movement are just a few examples.  Sometimes works of art, though chronologically ordered, transcend time.  Sometimes the social implications become eternally relevant; the personal inspirations represent an undercurrent of the collective subconscious that flows through the very essence of humanity.  One such movement in art's history is the work of the Spiral collective.

Spiral was a New York-based group of African-American artists in the 1960s that dealt with civil rights and the shifting structure of American art, culture, and politics. Stylistically working mainly in modernist abstraction, the Spiral artists painted in oils and watercolors and also produced works with collage and printmaking. Their artwork is currently on display at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

The artists of Spiral, ranging from 28 to 65 years old at the time, had varying opinions on the blending of art and politics:  whether or not art should be political and can art not be anything if not political.  The works of Calvin Douglass, Emma Amos, Romare Bearden, and Reginald Gammon, to name a few, show personal accounts, independent vantage points of an American culture in flux.  But by making art from their experience, their internal conversation becomes a social statement.  This connection between the individual and the social is what makes the artwork of Spiral eternally relevant to contemporary artists and observers alike.  The conversation between individual and culture is something to which we can all relate.

The Studio Museum in Harlem is the platform through which American and international artists of African descent showcase their work inspired by black culture. Since 1968, the Studio Museum has welcomed compelling conversation on art and its role in society and has been a catalyst in the promotion and success of black artists.  It's no wonder that one of the most influential movements in African-American art would be exhibited at the Studio Museum.

As we continue to celebrate Harlem Week, we really are celebrating the people of Harlem and Harlem's history.  There are few windows into the Harlem's soul as striking and personally moving as its art.  Spiral will be exhibited at the Studio Museum until October 23.  If you are interested in art, culture, history, or all of the above, don't miss this exhibition.

For all the necessary information from the Studio Museum, click here.

Photo: Enric Archivell