Mixing Metaphors: The Aesthetic, Social and Political in African American Art

Mixing Metaphors: The Aesthetic, Social and Political in African American Art

February 3 - June 3, 2012


Organized and sponsored by Bank of America, Mixing Metaphors is an exhibition composed of more than 90 paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, sculptures and mixed media works by 36 artists including Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden. The exhibition draws its inspiration from the different artists’ visions and their use of technique to convey compelling stories. Body politics, race, class and gender are a few of the topics that surface in these works of art, which depict moments from the extraordinary to the mundane.


In selecting works for this exhibition, Guest curator Deborah Willis looked for images that captured her imagination. Her central focus was on how artists define and explore the concepts of beauty and abstraction. Willis has organized Mixing Metaphors into three thematic sections: Reflections and Likeness, Constructing Place and Rituals of Existence. They are designed to foster critical thinking, provide social context and engage discussion. Willis challenges the viewer to investigate the role that art plays in society and how art affects our interpretation of what we see. The term, “Mixing Metaphors” is used to encourage the viewer to think of ways in which art and storytelling illustrate experiences. Art often serves as an instrument of memory, and as a means of interpreting ideas and exploring visual metaphor.


Some of the artists in this exhibition base their work on stories about family life or ideas about music and love. Others document experiences that transformed the twentieth century and inspired the next generation. Indeed, Mixing Metaphors will be a thought-provoking experience.