Color Balance was a groundbreaking exhibition that contextualized a recent gift of abstract paintings by Felrath Hines (given to three area university art museums) by juxtaposing them with works by contemporary abstractionist Alma Woodsey Thomas. Thomas’ large, exuberant acrylics based in nature made a perfect contrast to Hines’ quiet oils with subtle color shifts, smooth surfaces and precise edges that embody a purist approach. Sarah Schroth, Nancy Hanks Senior Curator, served as coordinating curator.
Hines (1913-1993) was a founding member of the important Spiral Group, the artist collective organized by Romare Bearden in New York in 1963 to explore the role of the African-American artist in the civil rights struggle. He met Martin Luther King, participated in the March on Washington and traveled to Fayette, Mississippi with Bearden and others to rally support for Charles Evers’ mayoral campaign in 1970. Hines made a living as a paintings conservator; it was not until his retirement as Chief Conservator for the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in 1984 that he was able to paint full time.
Thomas (1891-1978) was born in Columbus, Georgia in 1891. She was the first student to enter and graduate from Howard University’s program of studio art in 1924. Her first one-woman show took place at the age of 68, and despite her belated start, she went on to have retrospectives at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the National Museum of American Art; she was the first African-American woman to have a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
The exhibition was a collaborative project that included 14 paintings and four drawings by Hines that were donated to three area museums: the Nasher Museum, the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and North Carolina Central University Art Museum. The exhibition opened at the Ackland Art Museum (January 16 – May 9, 2010) and finalized its tour at NCCU (September 26 – December 10, 2010). At the Nasher Museum, the exhibition was supported by Horst and Ruth Mary Meyer, Paula and Eugene Flood, and Nancy Palmer Wardropper.
TOP: Alma Thomas, Light Blue Nursery (detail), 1968. Acrylic on canvas, 49 x 47 7/8 inches. Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of the artist 1970.324 Smithsonian American Art Museum. Washington, DC / Art Resource, NY.