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To Conserve a Legacy American Art from HistoricaUy Black CoUeges and Universities By RichardJ. PoweU andJock Reynolds Addison GaUery ofAmerican Art and The Studio Museum in Harlem, 1999 240 pp. Paper, $3 5.00 Art In Mississippi 1720—1980 By Patti Carr Black University Press ofMississippi, 1998 3 59 pp. Cloth, $60.00 Reviewed by Dale Volberg Reed, freelance writer and musician, and co-author with John Shelton Reed of 1001 Things Everyone ShouldKnow about the South from Doubleday, 1996. H. L. Mencken wrote in 1917 that "when you come to . . . painters, sculptors, architects, and the Uke, you wiU have to give it up, for there is not even a bad one between the Potomac mud-flats and the Gulf," and he was generaUy assumed to be correct. Seventy-three years later WilUam Gerdts explained in the second volume of his masterlyArtAcrossAmerica that "the art ofthe South has, until recendy, been terra incognita. . . . Post—Civü War artistic activity has not only been ignored but even denied, presumed to have been a victim ofthe war's devastation. It has only been in die past decade that a fair evaluation ofthe art ofthe South has begun." Gerdts also added that southern art had not yet been absorbed into mainstream American art history and art markets. Southern art history was Uke a huge puzzle with aU the pieces face down. Gradually, the pieces are being turned up, the edges are being found, and the picture is coming clear. The process began slowly but has been accelerating oflate. Patti Carr Black'sArtinMississippi: 1720-1980 and Richard J. PoweU andJock Reynolds's To ConserveaLegacy:AmericanArtfromHistoricalBlack Colleges and Universities are two ofthe most recent attempts to ful in the gaps. The first show of southern art to gain national attention was at the Corcoran in i960. It included work by sixty artists— 124 paintings (c. 1710 to the 1860s) mosdy done in Maryland, Virginia, South CaroUna, and the District ofColumbia. There was then a long dry speU until 1983, when the Virginia Museum opened 72 southern cultures, Winter 1999 : Reviews Paintingin theSouth: ?y64-1980 andJessie Poesch pubUshed her magisterialyin"ofthe OldSouth. Interest increased rapidly after that. In 1984ArtandArtists ofthe South: The RobertP. Coggins Collection opened in Columbia, South CaroUna, and traveled die South for over two years. In 1985 dealer Robert Hicklin organized die touring show The South on Paper. Also in 198 5 the Greenvüle County (South CaroUna) Museum made die inspired decision to concentrate on southern art; since then it has offered a succession of shows highUghting the work of southern artists and has buüt a fine permanent coUection. In 1989 WilUam S. Morris III bought the Coggins coUection, die basis for the Morris Museum of Art, which opened in Augusta in 1992 and which is devoted entirely to southern art. Its first pubUcation , A Southern Collection, by Estui Curtis Pennington, contains an extensive survey ofthe study ofsouthern art to 1992. Other notable additions to the canon include Lisa Howorth's beautiful book The South: A Treasury ofArt and Literature (1993) and a spate of other books by Pennington. As a result of aU this activity, when Gerdts wrote his introduction to Greenville CountyMuseum ofArt The Southern Collection in 1995 , he made the stanning assertion that his "Ubrary houses, by region, more substantial studies ofsouthern art . . . than ofany other region." The holes in the puzzle have continued to be fiUed in, notably with the additions of Art in the American South: Worksfrom the Ogden Collection (1996) and the Georgia Museum ofArt's TheAmerican SceneandtheSouth: Paintingsand Workson Paper, 1930— 1946X1996). Now we have two exceUent books that help to reveal significant areas of the panorama ofsouthern art. The first, Patti Carr Black'sArtinMississippi: 1730-1980, is, as one would expect, beautiful. But it is also scholarly, weU written, and thorCharlotte Davis Wylie, i8jj, by T. C. Healy,from Art in Mississippi. Reviews 73 The Students, by Betty McArthur,from Art in Mississippi. ough. EventuaUy it wiU need updating, but I cannot imagine that it wül ever have to be replaced or even seriously revised. It covers nearly every aspect ofvernacular and highbrow art, architecture, and crafts. The author is weU read in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 72-76
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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