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Dual-location exhibition portrays scenes of the African American experience

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Image: New Generation” by Elizabeth Catlett

Too often art by what we refer to as “minorities” is forced to bear a double weight. We expect it to be not just beautiful, but also educational. Under that expectation, looking at art by women, people of color, disabled people and other artists in marginalized communities can then feel more preachy than pleasurable.

Without leaving meaning or history behind, the show currently co-located at the Crealdé School of Art and the Hannibal Square Heritage Center is a pleasure to take in. Vibrant Vision is a selection of works by 20th-century African American artists drawn from the collection of Charleston painter Jonathan Green.

Barbara Tiffany, Crealdé’s exhibitions curator, has chosen 26 works, some that “told profound stories about the artists and times during which they were created,” such as Hale Woodruff’s 1930s linocut of a lynching victim; some that are “just joyful to look at, with strong color.”

Tiffany mentions Elizabeth Catlett’s 1992 lithograph “New Generation” as one of the latter. And it’s true that it’s a radiant image, a black father holding his young son. It also says something to show a joyous father and son in a population still rebuilding generational bonds after slavery deliberately and thoroughly ripped apart family ties.

So there’s plenty to learn from Vibrant Vision. But there’s no shortage of sheer beauty wrapped around the pain.

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