No. 538: William H. Johnson, Elizabeth Alexander

Episode No. 538 of The Modern Art Notes Podcast features curator Virginia Mecklenburg and artist Elizabeth Alexander.

Mecklenburg is the curator of “Fighters for Freedom: William H. Johnson Picturing Justice,” which is at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston through August 7.

The exhibition features a series of paintings Johnson made in the 1940s. It shows mostly Black activists, scientists, and educators, and spotlights their impacts on their communities and on the American nation. Johnson’s subjects include Crispus Attucks, Harriet Tubman, Marian Anderson, and John Brown. The series also the international heads of state who brought an end to World War II.

The exhibition was organized from the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which holds over 1,000 Johnsons within its collection. Mecklenburg is a senior curator at SAAM. The exhibition will travel to SAAM in 2023-24; a significant national tour is in development.

During the program, Mecklenburg referenced, “Cut Aesthetics: William H. Johnson’s Scrapbook History Paintings,” an article by Makeda Best in the Archives of American Art Journal.

Elizabeth Alexander is included in “Reckoning and Resilience: North Carolina Art Now” at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. The exhibition features over 100 works by 30 artists working across North Carolina. Alexander’s sculptures and installation are often made from deconstructed domestic materials and address America’s history, especially the construction and memory of white supremacy. She’s been included in exhibitions at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; and the Museum of Art and Design, New York. Museums such as the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Ark., and the Mint Museum, Charlotte hold her work in their collections.

Instagram: Elizabeth Alexander, Tyler Green.

Air date: February 24, 2022.

William H. Johnson, Crispus Attucks, ca. 1945.

Henry Pelham, Boston Massacre, 1770.

Paul Revere, The Bloody Massacre…, 1770.

Paul Revere, The Bloody Massacre…, 1770.

William H. Johnson, Toussaint l’Ouverture, Haiti, ca. 1945.

William H. Johnson, Harriet Tubman, ca. 1945.

William H. Johnson, Dr. George Washington Carver, ca. 1945.

William H. Johnson, Marian Anderson, ca. 1945.

William H. Johnson, Booker T. Washington Legend, ca. 1944-45.

William H. Johnson, Three Great Abolitionists: A. Lincoln, F. Douglass, J. Brown, ca. 1945.

William H. Johnson, Boxers, ca. 1946.

William H. Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, ca. 1945.

William H. Johnson, not titled, ca. 1945.

William H. Johnson, Three Allies in Cairo, ca. 1945.

William H. Johnson, Nehru and Gandhi, ca. 1945.

William H. Johnson, King Ibn Saud, ca. 1945.

William H. Johnson, FDR and the UN, ca. 1945.

Elizabeth Alexander, A Mightier Work is Ahead, 2021.

Elizabeth Alexander, A Mightier Work is Ahead (There Stands Jackson Like a Stone Wall), 2021.

Elizabeth Alexander, A Mightier Work is Ahead (Lee and Staff), 2021.

Eliabeth Alexander, Let Him Speak First (positives), 2011-19.

Elizabeth Alexander, Traditional Victorian Rose, 2020.

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