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African American Traditions 
through March 22, 2003
Second Floor Gallery
Curated by William J. Dane
I Must Get Away from Here, lithograph by Joan Eda Byrd.
African American Traditions in art works on paper is the major theme of an exhibit honoring African American history, art and biography in a gallery of The Newark Public Library, 5 Washington Street in downtown Newark from through March 2003. The presentation includes original prints, rare posters and special historic items which have been gathered together at The Library for several decades. Original signed prints by Jean Eda Byrd, James L. Wells, Ben Shahn, James Edward Jones, Gladys Barker Grauer, Vincent D. Smith and Mel Edwards among others have been especially selected for this timely project.

Frederick Douglass, by Ben Shahn.  Gift of Shahn Archives.

History from other times and other places is recorded visually in a 1984 series entitled “Great African Queens” published by an American brewing company and relating to little known facts of African history. Among those are Zaria, a 17th century queen of West Africa as well as three queens from Egypt including Hatshepsut and the legendary Cleopatra. Several posters and prints honor the career and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose recent birthday suggested the overall theme of this project.

Louis Armstrong, color lithograph by Tony Agostini.

The world of entertainment is represented by posters for films starring Eddie Murphy, a color lithograph of Louis Armstrong as well as cut out figures of Paul Robeson, Denzel Washington and Vanessa Williams. Also shown are high quality reproductions with biographic information on Philadelphia artist, Dox Thrash, whose work is enjoying a renaissance, beautiful drawings by Charles White and the work of Beverly Buchanan and William H. Johnson. These notable artists are honored for their lasting contributions of the visual arts in the United States, both yesterday and today.

Highlights of this Library exhibition are two original paintings by Mr. Jerry Floyd of Piscataway, New Jersey. Both of his works depict Broad Street in downtown Newark; one shows the busy crossing at Market Street and the other captures the scene looking north from the corner of Lincoln Park. Both of Mr. Floyd’s works are nostalgic for Newark residents and they are a joy to behold.

Lincoln Park and Broad Street, Newark, painting by Jerry Floyd.

Colorful pages from recent books for children are shown to reflect the enormous interest in writing and illustrating new publications for young readers and book enthusiasts who number in the millions. These include The Hickory Chair a 2001 title with memorable art work by Benny Adrews with a story by Lisa Rowe Faustino. Two books by young artist, Christopher Myers are on display. These are Wings published in 2000 and Black Cat which was named a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. Christopher Myers is the son of Walter Dean Myers who is also a celebrated author living in New Jersey. In his book about a stray cat as it prowls the streets, Christopher Myers has created stunning collages of photos and guache, recalling today’s city life in electric colors and highly original perspectives. Hats from Africa and the high fashion world are shown to reflect the great interest in a recent Broadway musical play entitled Crowns by Regina Taylor.

The exhibit is curated by William J. Dane, Supervisor of the Special Collections Division of The Newark Public Library and is open to the public during regular Library hours. As always, there is no admission fee for Library exhibitions and all visitors are warmly welcomed. For additional information or specific questions, please call Mr. Dane at 973-733-7745.


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