When art historian, curator, and artist David C. Driskell died last summer from complications related to Covid-19, his loss reverberated throughout the art world. A mentor and supporter of generations of Black artists, curators, and scholars, Driskell organized the landmark exhibition “Two Centuries of Black American Art,” which staked a claim for the importance and influence of art-making by Black people in this country. Black art was not something that had just sprung up during the civil rights movement, he argued. Instead, it was a tradition with roots that extended back to the very founding of this country, with artists like Robert S. Duncanson, Joshua Johnson, and Edmonia Lewis represented alongside more recent talents like Norman Lewis, Charles White, and Alma Thomas.
That it opened in 1976 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, as part of programming celebrating the country’s bicentennial, further underscores how daring it all was. … Read the rest