Thursday, January 8, 2015

Romare Bearden's Paris Odyssey - Prelude

When I wrote Patricia Laplante-Collins' Black Paris Profile, I referred to her as the "undisputed doyenne of the Paris salon scene."

Patricia once again proved that to be true on Sunday evening, January 4, 2015, when the guest speaker at her Paris Soirée presented a taste of what the Paris public can expect to experience at the Paris Odyssey art exposition that is being mounted at Columbia Global Centers in Reid Hall.

Paris Odyssey slide presentation
© Discover Paris!

Professor Robert O'Meally is Columbia University’s Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and Comparative Literature. He conceived and curated Paris Odyssey, which is a modified version of the Smithsonian Institution's traveling exhibition Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey (also conceived and curated by O'Meally) that currently hangs at the Wallach Gallery on Columbia's New York campus. The show features Bearden's collages and watercolors based on Homer's epic poems, the Odyssey and the Iliad.

Professor Robert O'Meally
© Discover Paris!

Paris Odyssey is the first stop of a global tour that will include Istanbul, Johannesburg, and potentially, Beijing. In Paris, Bearden's work will be paired with that of Henri Matisse, the French master, who was one of Bearden's primary artistic influences. His Odyssey and Iliad series will hang side-by-side with Matisse's own Odyssean sketches.

Also to be shown is Bearden's "Paris Blues" series, which is based on his memories of his life in Paris during the 1950s and features themes from the 1961 film Paris Blues. Matisse's well-known Jazz collages will provide counterpoint to this set of Bearden's works.

Slide presenting a work from the "Paris Blues" series
© Discover Paris!

At Sunday's soirée, there was a full house in attendance.

Packed house
© Discover Paris!

As usual, Patricia introduced everyone before the presentation began.

Patricia makes an introduction
© Discover Paris!

Professor O’Meally then spoke of Bearden's upbringing, his passion for portraying strong women in his art, his love of jazz, and his relationship with legendary jazz greats, Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. He discussed the nuances of Bearden's portrayals of scenes from Homer's Odyssey from an artistic and a cultural perspective that focused on Bearden's ability to pay tribute to those who inspired his art and still create works that were uniquely his.

Bob O'Meally presents Paris Odyssey
© Discover Paris!

Paris Odyssey opens at Reid Hall on January 19th. A symposium will be held on January 20th. You must sign up to attend.

See you there!


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