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'Something Over Something Else' brings work of influential black artist to Cincinnati Art Museum

Posted at 7:00 AM, Feb 27, 2020

CINCINNATI — When the Cincinnati Art Museum's latest exhibition "Something Over Something Else" opens Friday, visitors will get a rare glimpse of a series of works by trailblazing African American artist Romare Bearden.

"This exhibition represents a group of works that Bearden made in 1978 through 1981," said Julie Aronson, curator of American art at the museum. "The works were specifically autobiographical in nature."

Aronson said the Cincinnati Art Museum is one of only two museums in almost 40 years to display the series of more than 30 works depicting Bearden's early life. Bearden first exhibited the pieces, primarily collages created with fabric and other materials, in New York in 1980.

Prior to arriving in Cincinnati, "Something Over Something Else" was on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

"Because so many of them (individual works) are owned by private collectors, they're just not things that come out that often," Aronson said.

Bearden, who was born in North Carolina in 1911, died in New York City in 1988 at age 76. In the exhibition, he explores his early life growing up in rural North Carolina and then moving to industrial Pittsburgh. Those pieces, set in the 1920s, touch upon the heartache of many African Americans who took part in the Great Migration, a time period when many moved from the South to northern cities looking for work and new opportunities.

Bearden also reflects on his transition into adulthood as an artist living in 1930s New York City. It was there that Bearden found inspiration in the works of many prominent African American artists and intellectuals who made up the Harlem Renaissance, Aronson said.

"Some of them are humorous. Some of them are more serious. Some of them are very evocative," she said of those individual works.

The current exhibition's title is a nod to Bearden's description of his creative process.

“You put something down. Then you put something else with it, and then you see how that works, and maybe you try something else and so on, and the picture grows in that way,” he said during a 1980 interview, as cited in the book "Looking and Listening: Conversations between Modern Art and Music."

In honor of Black History Month, the Cincinnati Art Museum is offering free general admission to view the "Something Over Something Else" special exhibition during its opening weekend.

The standard special exhibition admission price of $12 for adults and $10 for children will resume on Tuesday. The museum is open 11 a.m-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, with extended hours from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday. The museum is closed on Monday.

The exhibition will run through May 24. Visit cincinnatiartmuseum.org for more information.