To Teach Is To Learn: Lessons in African American Art of the South

TJC Gallery, Spartanburg, South Carolina
August 31, 2017 – January 12, 2018

In college classrooms and community forums, at local venues and national museums, through scholarly publications and traveling exhibitions, the Johnson Collections seek to illuminate the rich history and diverse cultures of the American South as borne out in the region’s various visual art forms. In keeping with that commitment, this exhibition engages upper-level art history students from Wofford College with selected works created by African American artists—transforming gallery space into classroom and learners into teachers. One of this nation’s finest teachers, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. believed that “the function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.” Throughout the fall semester, students will be asked to think deeply and critically about African American art and Southern connections. Their discoveries will, in turn, become instructive tools for gallery visitors in the form of explanatory wall labels and public presentations.

There is no unifying theme to the works of art on view. Rather, the goal is to showcase how African Americans have continuously participated in, pioneered, taught, and transformed American art, in the South and beyond— from the traditional nineteenth-century portraiture of Joshua Johnson to the groundbreaking Abstract Expressionism of Alma Thomas. Other featured artists include Benny Andrews, John Biggers, Edwin Harleston, William H. Johnson, Loïs Mailou Jones, Norman Lewis, James Porter, Leo Twiggs, and Hale Woodruff.