The Oklahoma City Museum of Art opens two spring exhibitions

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The Oklahoma City Museum of Art opens two spring exhibitions
Charles White, Chain Gang, 1959. Pencil, graphite and white chalk, 18 x 24 in. Gift of Harry Belafonte, 1976.002, © The Charles White Archives, Courtesy American Federation of Arts.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK.- The Oklahoma City Museum of Art will open two spring exhibitions will officially open to the public Saturday, February 18 at 10 a.m. and close Sunday, May 14 at 5 p.m. Fighters for Freedom: William H. Johnson Picturing Justice , organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with generous support provided by Art Bridges, and Art and Activism at Tougaloo College, co-organized by the American Federation of the Arts and Tougaloo College, are complementary exhibitions as they highlight the work of Black artists of the 20th century and provide a richer context for the Museum’s permanent modern art collection.

Fighters for Freedom: William H. Johnson Picturing Justice

William H. Johnson painted his Fighters for Freedom series in the mid-1940s as a tribute to Black activists, scientists, teachers, and performers as well as international heads of state working to bring peace to the world. He celebrated their accomplishments even as he acknowledged the realities of racism, violence, and oppression they faced and overcame. Some of his Fighters—Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, Marian Anderson, and Mahatma Gandhi—are familiar historical figures; others are less well-known individuals whose determination and sacrifice have been eclipsed over time.

As Johnson’s final body of work, the exhibition is drawn entirely from the collection of more than 1,000 pieces given to the Smithsonian American Art Museum by the Harmon Foundation in 1967 with 28 paintings on display at OKCMOA. The series uses vibrant colors traditionally described as folk art and creates a style that is accessible to Museum visitors of all ages.

OKCMOA received funding from Art Bridges to replicate four paintings into touchable pieces of art to provide a sensory experience for children and for the low-vision and blind community.

Art and Activism at Tougaloo College

This exhibition features works of art from the collection of Tougaloo College, a historically Black college in Mississippi. Founded in 1869, Tougaloo College played a central role in the Civil Rights Movement and the fight for racial equality. In 1963, the college gained national attention when students and professors staged a sit-in at Woolworth’s in Jackson.

That same year, the college’s art collection was formed, making it the first modern art collection in the state of Mississippi.

This exhibition showcases 34 works of art by major European artists of the 20th century, alongside significant American artists, including several important Black artists.

The European works include lithographs by Pablo Picasso, George Grosz and Henri Matisse. A strength of the collection is the great variety of artworks made by American artists, ranging from a serene landscape by Richard Mayhew, to figural works by Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden, and abstract paintings and sculptures by Alma Thomas and Richard Hunt.

Visitors who want to learn more about Fighters for Freedom: William H. Johnson Picturing Justice and Art in Activism at Tougaloo College will have many opportunities, including discussions, an art-making activity and film screenings.

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