BROADER INTEREST in African American art over the past several years has coincided with the production of more wall calendars showcasing the work of Black artists. In 2021, calendars dedicated to Black female artists were finally added to the mix. Looking forward to 2024, more African American art calendars than ever are available.
Art by these artists can be found in the collections of museums around the world. The new crop includes Alma Thomas and Faith Ringgold (presenting selections from her quilt series The French Collection); perennial favorites Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence (featuring images from his The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture series); and new calendars from Ernie Barnes and Winfred Rembert, who have gained newfound attention.
In addition, several artists are receiving the calendar treatment for the first time in 2024: Whitfield Lovell and the Saars, a family of Los Angeles artists led by matriarch Betye Saar. A selection of 2024 calendars featuring African American art follows:
Inspired by photographs of anonymous African Americans dating from emancipation to the civil rights era, Whitfield Lovell‘s installations and mixed-media works explore identity, history, and heritage. The calendar focuses on the artist’s Kin series, Conté crayon drawings produced between 2008 and 2011 that pair portraits with vintage objects rich with meaning and metaphor, suggesting the personal histories of the subjects. The traveling exhibition “Whitfield Lovell: Passages,” the most comprehensive presentation of the artist’s work to date, opened Oct. 27 at the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock.
Jacob Lawrence: Toussaint L’Ouverture 2024 Wall Calendar. Shown, JACOB LAWRENCE, “General Toussaint L’Ouverture,” 1986. © The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, Seattle/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy DC Moore Gallery | Published by Pomegranate
Jacob Lawrence is known for his masterful use of color and insightful depictions of a wide array of African American experiences. The artist is particularly heralded for his history series documenting key figures and events that have shaped the American story and wider journey of the Black diaspora. The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture was Lawrence’s first narrative series. Painted on 41 panels from 1936-38, the series documented the dramatic arc of L’Ouverture’s life, from being born enslaved to becoming a general and key leader of the Haitian Revolution. Half a century later, Lawrence returned to the project, recreating the series in a suite of 15 silkscreen prints made between 1986 and 1997 in collaboration with Lou Stovall of Workshop Inc., in Washington, D.C. The images included in the calendar are drawn from the print series with the first work “General Toussaint L’Ouverture” (1986), a portrait of the legendary figure in profile, gracing the cover.
Defined by brilliant color, rhythmic patterns, and an expressive approach to abstraction that was all her own, the paintings of Alma Thomas are informed by the beauty of nature and space. Successful in her lifetime, Thomas was 81 when she became the first Black female artist to have a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1972. Over the past decade, she has been recognized anew with greater recognition of her magisterial compositions and pioneering contributions as a female artist working in abstraction in the 20th century. The Smithsonian American Art Museum is currently presenting a survey of her work from its collection. Following calendars dedicated to Thomas in 2022 and 2023, this 2024 edition features works, dating from circa 1960s to 1972, drawn from private collections and the Columbus Museum in Georgia, the artist’s hometown museum and co-organizer of the recent traveling exhibition “Alma Thomas: Everything is Beautiful.”
Ernie Barnes is celebrated for his heartfelt representations of Black life in the South, the experiences of African American women, the magic of music, and the triumphs and challenges of athletes across a range of sports, including football, which he played professionally before focusing on his career as an artist. Barnes built a robust collector base over the years, but was largely ignored by mainstream art institutions. Recent museum exhibitions and new gallery representation brought wider attention to his practice. The subsequent sale in May 2022 of his most famous painting “The Sugar Shack” (1976) for nearly $15.3 million, an astounding auction record (when his previous record was just over half-a-million dollars), exponentially increased interest in his work, more than a dozen years after his death. “The Sugar Shack” and a variety of other images by the artist are presented in the calendar, including “Porch Ladies,” “Lift Every Voice,” and “The Bassist,” with “The Tunesmith” gracing the cover.
African American History & Culture 2024 Wall Calendar. Shown, CHARLES WHITE, “Mother Courage II,” 1974 (oil on canvas, 49 3/4 × 39 7/8 inches). © The Charles White Archives, National Academy of Design, New York, N.Y. | Published by Pomegranate
A selection of works by some of the most important African American artists active in the 20th century is featured in the calendar. From the collection of the National Academy of Design, “Mother Courage II” (1974) is a rare painting by Charles White, who was best known for his drawings. The portrait of a single female figure who is a vision of strength, dignity, and determination exemplifies the artist’s standard practice of portraying individuals who symbolize universal experiences. Works by Emma Amos, Edward Mitchell Bannister, Romare Bearden, Eldzier Cortor, Allan Rohan Crite, Lois Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, Archibald Motley Jr., Faith Ringgold, Alma Woodsey Thomas, and Laura Wheeler Waring are also included, drawn from a variety of other institutions including the Saint Louis Art Museum, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, and Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American Art and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C., boasts a collection of more than 40,000 objects. Of those, about 600 items are works of art, spanning painting, sculpture, mixed-media, collage, drawing, prints, and quilts. The calendar showcases highlights from the museum’s art collection including modern and contemporary works by Benny Andrews, Radcliffe Baily, Elizabeth Catlett, Adger Cowans, Paul Claude Gardère, Rashid Johnson, Carolyn Mims Lawrence, Jefferson Pinder, and Henry O. Tanner. New acquisitions are also featured: “African American Flag” (1990) by David Hammons and Amy Sherald’s “Breonna Taylor” (2020) painting. (NMAAHC’s collection also includes the commissioned dress by designer Jasmine Elder that appears in the portrait.) Meanwhile, “Unite” (1971), a screenprint by Barbara Jones-Hogu, a founding member of AfriCOBRA, graces the cover.
Faith Ringgold is a multifaceted artist, activist, educator, and storyteller. Her insightful works confront American racism, explore political and cultural issues, and consider the experiences of women and her own biography. The Harlem-born, New Jersey-based artist works in a variety of mediums, including painting, prints, and her much-heralded story quilts. The calendar focuses on The French Collection, Ringgold’s series of 12 painted quilts that illustrate the story of Willa Marie Simone. A fictional character from Harlem, she goes to Paris to become an artist and model. Her incredible adventures include visiting Picasso’s studio, modeling for Matisse, celebrating Josephine Baker’s birthday, and dancing at the Louvre, all of which Ringgold visualizes in quilt form. The acrylic on canvas quilts have pieced fabric borders and were produced between 1991 and 1997.
Winfred Rembert (1945-2021) painted on carved and tooled leather. He made vivid scenes of the segregated South—cotton fields, chain gangs, pool halls, and church services—and portraits of his loved ones. The images reflect his memories of growing up, a hardscrabble existence in rural Cuthbert, Ga. In the mid-1970s, he moved to New Haven, Conn., where he died in 2021. “Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South,” his posthumously published memoir, won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in biography. The works featured the calendar were made between 2004 and 2010 and include portraits of Rembert and his wife Patsy, Sugarcane (Patsy’s mother), and the artist’s mother and J.T. Pomegranate produced a calendar of Rembert’s work in 2023. Four of the images from that calendar are included in this one: “Ben Shorter IV,” 2010, “The Struggle,” 2010, “Sugarcane (Patsy’s mother),” 2009, and “Inside Homer Clyde’s,” 2007.
Legacy: The Art of Betye, Lezley, and Alison Saar 2024 Wall Calendar . Shown, LEZLEY SAAR, “Nella Larsen…Passing,” 2003 (acrylic on velour fabric, embellishment on lace fabric, curtain rod, 90 x 55 inches). | Published by Pomegranate
For Betye Saar and her daughters Alison Saar and Lezley Saar, art is a family affair. The Los Angeles artists have distinct practices, but often explore similar themes, including identity, history, and spirituality. Alison’s sculptures center the female figure and the natural world. She also makes installations and prints. Lezley works across painting, drawing, photography, collage, installations, banners, dioramas, and book works. Betye, 97, is known for prints and wondrous assemblage works composed of found vintage objects. The calendar features four works by each artist dating from 2014 to 2023, with the exception of a sketchbook Betye made circa 1968-70. Lezley’s painting “Nella Larsen…Passing” (2003) graces the cover.
One of the most celebrated African American artists of the 20th century, Romare Bearden made masterful collages representing African American life based on his experiences growing up in Mecklenburg County in North Carolina and spending most of his career in New York. The calendar includes collage works produced between 1967 to 1986 on a range of subjects: blues and jazz; rural, spiritual, and domestic scenes; and an image from Bearden’s Odysseus series. The cover image is “One Night Stand” (1974) from Bearden’s Blues series.
FIND MORE Also consider, Faith Ringold’s work is featured on the cover of the Art: Page-A-Day Gallery Calendar 2024, which is described as “the next best thing to exploring your favorite museum.” Additional wall calendars present works by Jonathan Green, Annie Lee, and Tamara Madden, a Jamaican-born, American artist who taught at Spelman College. The Metropolitan Museum of Art offers a “Gee’s Bend Quilts Plexiglass Calendar Refill 2024.” In addition, “Harlem Renaissance 2024 Calendar” is available from the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library.
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