Four works from the Howard University Art Gallery featured in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts exhibit

WASHINGTONHoward University Art Gallery currently has four works of art on display in the “Dirty South: contemporary art, material culture and sound impulse” exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA). The exhibit closes at the VMFA, in Richmond, Va., On September 6.

Organized by the VMFA, the “Dirty South” focuses on the roots of southern hip-hop culture and how the aesthetic traditions of the African American South have shaped visual art and musical expression over the years. Last 100 years. This exhibition is curated by Valerie Cassel Olivier, a Howard University alumnus and curator of modern and contemporary art for the Sydney family and Frances Lewis of VMFA.

“Being able to showcase works from the Howard Collection is truly wonderful, not only for highlighting the works in the collection, but also for the sheer commitment of historic black colleges and universities to collecting these works. It is really considered by the general public as the gold standard ”, said Cassel Oliver. “We don’t celebrate black artists as much as we should and value their output. However, I want people to see this as a holistic approach. Artists write our stories.

Beginning in the 1920s with spirituals, jazz and blues, the presentation intertwines similarities in visual art production in the southern United States. The exhibition features a group of intergenerational artists working in various genres ranging from sculpture and photography, sound works and large-scale installations.

“We had the pleasure of loaning to the ‘Dirty South’ exhibit. Howard University has a large collection of works by African American artists that is not widely known, and our goal is to share as much of our collection as possible with the art-loving public, ”said Lisa Farrington, associate dean of fine arts. “The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has given us a wonderful opportunity to present a rare terracotta Catlett; paintings by William H. Johnson of two unique periods in his career, Expressionism and Synthetic Cubism; and an iconic and spiritually inspired image of Aaron Douglas in his inimitable graphic style. We are honored to be a part of this wonderful company.

The global exhibition “Dirty South” highlights more than 140 works of art, drawing inspiration from visual imagery found in music videos, song lyrics and cultural ephemera. The showcase focuses on landscape frameworks, belief systems and the black body and contributions of academically trained artists as well as creative intellectuals relegated to the fringes as “popular artists”.

The VMFA exhibit is accompanied by an illustrated catalog that will serve as a magazine on the African American South and highlight social responsibility as well as what it means to be Black in the South.

Contributions from the Howard University Art Gallery to “Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture and Sound Impulse”

Elizabeth Catlett - Tired (1946) Aaron Douglas - Rise, Shine, for Thy Light Has Come (1927)

William H. Johnson - Sun Tree House (nd)   William H. Johnson - Quintet (1940)

To learn more about the “Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture and Sound Impulse”, visit

Photo 1: Image 0525, courtesy Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Photo by Travis Fullerton, © 2021 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Clementine Hunter (American, 1886-1988) Melrose plantation, California. beginning of the years 1960-1988, Oil on Masonite. New Orleans Museum of Art, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Robert F. Ryan, 73.205

Eldzier Cortor (America, 1916-2015), Southern landscape, 1941, Oil on Masonite. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment, 2016.2

William H. Johnson (American, 1901-1970), Sun House Tree (Landscape with setting sun, SC), nd Oil on canvas. The work is on loan from the Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington, DC and Howard University reserves all rights in the work.

John Biggers (American, 1924-2001), Four Seasons, 1990, Color lithograph on paper. Gibbes Museum of Art, museum purchase, 1994.017

Kaneem Smith (American, born 1973), The past is a perpetual / weighted fleet, 2012, Reclaimed cotton ball, vintage iron hanging scales, wire, wooden pallet. Courtesy of the artist and Nicole Longnecker Gallery, Houston, Texas

Photo 2: Elizabeth Catlett, Tiredness, 1946, terracotta, Courtesy of Howard University Art Gallery

Photo 3: Aaron Douglas, Rise, shine, for your light has come, 1927, Opaque watercolor and black ink on cardboard, courtesy of Howard University Gallery of Art

Photo 4: William H. Johnson, Sun House Tree, nd, oil on canvas, courtesy of Howard University Gallery of Art

Photo 5: William H. Johnson, Quintet, ch. 1940, opaque watercolor, pen and ink on wove paper courtesy of Howard University Gallery of Art


About Howard University

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private research university comprising 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue more than 140 degree programs leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to excellence in truth and service and has produced one Schwarzman Fellow, three Marshall Fellows, four Rhodes Fellows, 12 Truman Fellows, 25 Pickering Fellows and over 165 Fulbright Fellows. Howard also produces more African American doctorates on campus. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information about Howard University, visit

About the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA)

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia is one of the largest comprehensive art museums in the United States. The VMFA, which opened in 1936, is a public body and a private educational institution. Its purpose is to collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret art, and to encourage the study of the arts. Through the Office of Statewide Partnerships program, the museum offers curated exhibitions, arts-related audiovisual programs, symposia, lectures, lectures, and workshops by visual and performing artists. In addition to presenting a wide range of special exhibits, the museum offers visitors the opportunity to experience a global art collection that spans over 6,000 years. The VMFA’s permanent fund includes nearly 50,000 works of art, including the largest public collection of Fabergé outside Russia, the most beautiful collection of Art Nouveau outside Paris and one of the finest collections of American art from the country. VMFA also houses significant collections of Chinese art, English silverware, French Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, British sports, and Modern and Contemporary art, as well as renowned South Asian art, ‘Himalayas and Africa. In May 2010, the VMFA opened its doors to the public after a transformative expansion, the largest in its history.

Media contact: Aaliyah Butler; [email protected]

Christopher S. Washington