Celebrated black artist featured in DePaul Art Museum exhibit

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An exhibit of work by a Chicago artist who played a pivotal role in the Black Arts Movement is now on display at the DePaul Art Museum. (WLS)

An exhibit of work by a Chicago artist who played a pivotal role in the Black Arts Movement is now on display at the DePaul Art Museum, and it is a bittersweet tribute to a lifetime of work.

Barbara Jones-Hogu's iconic images showcase powerful political statements combined with layers of color to complete her complicated compositions. "Unite" is one of her most iconic images. She was also a founding member of the arts group AfriCobra.

"This exhibition, titled 'Resist, Relate, Unite' presents a group of prints that she made in the early 60s and late 70s when she and the other AfriCobra artists were really interested in challenging the stereotypical representations of the black community," said Julie Rodrigues Widholm, the museum's director and chief curator.

The South Side native died in November - just two months before the doors opened on her first solo exhibit.

"For her, the text was a way to make sure her message was very direct and very clear. So the people buying her prints and looking at her work knew exactly what the message was," Widholm said. "Some of the phrases that you'll find in her work include 'rise and take control,' 'black men, we need you,' 'unite.'"

Other themes included liberation, freedom and unity. Widholm said Jones-Hogu was "trying to create a kind of unified black cultural nation."

Widholm said it took more than a year to put together the collection of 25 pieces of artwork and pages from her sketch book.

Jones-Hogu's work is still powerful and relevant today, after 50 years. Her work is also well known as a part of the "Wall of Respect" mural in 1967.

"The notion that one's work made 50 years ago can continue to resonate with an audience even after you're gone, so it's quite bittersweet that she left us but her work continues to be powerful, inspiring and necessary today," said Widholm.

The "Resist, Relate, Unite" exhibit is free and open to the public. The show runs through March 25.

Click here for more information about "Resist, Relate, Unite"

Click here for more about Black History Month events at DePaul
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