Saturday, August 30, 2014

PAFA: Kelley Collection of African American Art Now On View

The Harmon & Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art: Works on Paper

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building

Now on view through October 12

William E. Smith,
 A Friendly Game, 1944
Curator Anna O. Marley’s striking installation of the Kelley Collection is in one enormous room without dividers or vitrines. Directly across the entrance is a William E. Smith ink study of World War II-era musicians with their instruments. It’s a small work with fine detail but still an arresting first sight upon entering the room. (A Smith drawing from the Gallery's collection is at right.)

The exhibition is arranged thematically in groups such as dance scenes or political protest. In personal notes from the collectors Mrs. Kelley commented that she was drawn to the works of the depression era through the dignity with which artists drew the figures at work and to the portrayal of everyday farm life that she herself experienced as a child.

The main focus is on the 1930s and 40s, a period when many African American artists entered the field, in part through the efforts New Deal programs such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Broad Street, Philadelphia.