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Romare Bearden
The Block
1971
Cut and pasted printed, colored and metallic papers, photostats, graphite, ink marker, gouache, watercolor, and ink on Masonite

48 x 216 inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Shore, 1978, Art © Romare Bearden Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Excerpt from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York:

Romare Bearden
(American, Charlotte, North Carolina 1911–1988 New York)

The Block, 1971

"The Block" is a tribute to Harlem, a neighborhood in New York City that nurtured both the life and work of artist Romare Bearden. Although he was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Bearden spent part of each year in New York throughout his childhood. In 1940 he established his first studio in Harlem, at 306 West 125th Street, in the same building as the artist Jacob Lawrence and the poet-­novelist Claude McKay. During the 1940s Bearden was active in the Harlem cultural community as part of the informal artist’s organization known as the 306 Group and as a member of the Harlem Artists Guild.

Each of the six panels of "The Block" presents an aspect of life in Harlem, depicting such neighborhood institutions as the Evangelical church, the barbershop, and the corner grocery store. Bearden took artistic license in revealing the private moments of tenement life as well as the exuberant humanity that existed in the prototypical city block. His concern with social issues reflects the influence of the German artist George Grosz, with whom Bearden had studied at the Art Students League in the 1930s. The "Cubist" character of Bearden’s cut-paper collage, a technique with which he is associated, resulted from formal experimentation, the documentary impulse of Dadaist photomontage, and Bearden’s own modern vision, which matured during the 1940s and 1950s.

The original installation of this work included a tape recording of street sounds to enhance the viewers visual experience of the work, but even without this accompaniment the vitality of the scene is palpable.


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Additional Information:

Romare Bearden: Selected Biographies on Art in Context

Romare Bearden: Related Links on Art in Context

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Romare Bearden, American, (1911-1988)
b. September 2, 1911, Charlotte, NC
d. 1988

Art in Context - Projects:
Art in Context - Art for the Day: September 2




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