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Howardena Pindell August 25 – December 5, 2015


I sustain myself through sheer tenacity as the art world does not want artists of color to be full participants. I work because it is my life’s work. I have no other choice. Howardena Pindell

Howardena Pindell August 25 – December 5, 2015


owardena Pindell (b. 1943), a pioneering artist, activist, writer, curator, and professor, has been an influential figure in the art world for over 40 years. She is heralded for both her astounding body of artwork and her fierce critique of racism and gender inequalities in the art world. This original solo exhibition featuring works created from 1974 to 1986 examines a dynamic cross-section of her work. During this pivotal time, Pindell created intimate works on paper, early abstract paintings, and video drawings. This exhibition also includes her seminal video Free, White and 21 and large-scale paintings from the Autobiography series. The range of featured works expresses a critical moment in the artist’s career when she transitioned from her process-oriented work and began to explore various facets of her identity. Pindell received a BFA in Painting from the School of Fine and Applied Arts at Boston University in 1965 and an MFA from the School of Art and Architecture at Yale University in 1967. Pindell began her professional career in curatorial departments at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1967 where she was first hired as a Curatorial Assistant in the Department of National and International Exhibitions. She was later promoted to Assistant Curator and then Associate Curator of Prints and Illustrated Books. One of few black women to hold such posts, Pindell’s curatorial positions at a prominent museum is particularly noteworthy. Her full-time job afforded her the opportunity to travel to Africa, Europe, and Asia.

Autobiography: Africa (Red Frog II), (detail) 1986. Mixed media on canvas, 78 x 70 inches. Courtesy the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York.

Throughout this time Pindell remained dedicated to her art making practice. She moved away from the figurative work she made in graduate school and began experimenting with abstraction and manipulating surface texture. Pindell’s use of the grid—a longstanding structure that symbolized order and resistance to change—is perhaps a nod to both her modernist predecessors as well as to her father who was a mathematician. The artist disrupts the constraints of the formal lines with overlying materials. Her early paintings were abstract and intricately layered with surfaces that were confetti-like, richly textured, and luminescent. Through the artist’s experimentations with color and texture, she constructed work that seems to explode from the surface. She also created intimate works on paper and board and incorporated materials such as small strips of paper and hole punched dots. Pindell’s oeuvre provides an interplay between structure and improvisation In addition to her professional demands, Pindell devoted her time to issues about which she was passionate, including combatting gender bias in the art world. In 1971 Pindell was one of 20 women who co-founded the A.I.R. Gallery—the first artist directed and maintained gallery for women. Though initially affiliated with the feminist movement in New York, Pindell became concerned that it did not value the experiences of, or prioritize advancement for, black women.


n 1979 she left MoMA and began teaching at State University of New York at Stony Brook where she is currently a Full Professor of Art. That same year she was also involved in a car crash from which she suffered a concussion and bouts of memory loss. During her recovery she created vivid painted collages made from strips of postcards and photographs from her travels to help restore and piece together her memory. In 1980 Pindell made the video Free, White and 21 in direct response to her encounters with racism, including her experiences with white feminists in the art world. She, at times playing herself and at other times disguised as a white woman, reenacts hostilities she has been subjected to throughout her life. She used the still-new technology of color video as a medium with both artistic and activist potential. Confronting tokenism, antagonism, and harassment aimed at black women, the work remains relevant today.

Autobiography: Japan (Hane No Tombo), 1982–1983 (detail). Mixed media on canvas, 66 1/2 x 148 inches. Courtesy the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York.

Free, White and 21, 1980. Color video with sound, 12:15 minutes. Courtesy the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery, New YorkA.

Free, White and 21 marks the beginning of Pindell’s Autobiography series. She began placing herself as well as critiques of racism, feminism, violence, slavery, and exploitation, at the center of her work. Through the monumental paintings in this series, Pindell weaves together personal and cultural history in a critical examination of self and the world. Still highly process-oriented, she used small cross-hatching brush strokes and sewed strips of canvas together to create large, highly textured, unstructured paintings of various shapes. Guided by reclamation, the Autobiography series is a synthesis of formal techniques, activism, and personal growth. Pindell is also an avid writer whose keen observations and perceptions through her intersectional lens as a black woman artist, curator, advocate, and international sojourner are documented in The Heart of the Question: The Writings and Paintings of Howardena Pindell (1997). The publication brings to light how her aesthetic concerns, social activism, and spirituality became intertwined.


indell has received numerous honors and distinguished awards including a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1987) and a Painters and Sculptors Grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation (1994). She holds two honorary doctorates, one from the Massachusetts College of Art and another from Parsons School of Design. Her work has been featured nationally and internationally in more than 125 solo and group exhibitions. In 1971 Spelman College presented the first public solo exhibition of Howardena Pindell’s paintings and drawings. Since then her art has evolved in dynamic and unpredictable ways and continues to be a powerful vehicle through which to articulate her detailed perceptions, passionate advocacy, and ceaseless drive. As the works in this exhibition underscore a current and renewed interest in Howardena Pindell’s work, they also reexamine the resounding impact of her artistic and scholarly contributions. Howardena Pindell reflects her triumphant return to Atlanta. Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, Ph.D., Director Anne Collins Smith, Curator of Collections

The surfaces of Howardena Pindell’s paintings and works on paper are multilayered and intricate. We have included details throughout this document and invite you to experience the rich texture of the entire work in person.

Howardena Pindell | Exhibition Checklist

Autobiography: Japan (Mountain Reflection), 1982 – 1983. Mixed media on canvas, 107 x 106 ¾ inches.

Parabia Test #4, 1974 Ink and paper collage on vellum 11 x 8 ½ inches Untitled #58, 1974 Mixed media on board 5 x 8 inches

Untitled, 1974 – 1975 Mixed media on canvas 42 ½ x 66 ½ inches Text, 1975 Ink on paper collage 7 ⅛ x 12 ¼ inches Untitled, 1975 Mixed media on board 14 x 11 inches Autobiography: Japan (Mountain Reflection), (detail) 1982 – 1983. Mixed media on canvas, 107 x 106 ¾ inches.

Video Drawings: Hockey, 1975 Chromogenic print 8 x 10 inches Video Drawings: Swimming, 1975 Chromogenic print 8 x 10 inches Untitled #4, 1975 Ink on paper collage 9 ½ x 11 ¼ inches Untitled #7, 1975 Ink on paper collage 6 x 10 ¼ inches Video Drawings: Abstract, 1976 Chromogenic print 8 x 10 inches Video Drawings: Baseball, 1976 Chromogenic print 8 x 10 inches Video Drawings: Boxing, 1976 Chromogenic print 8 x 10 inches Video Drawings: Swimming, 1976 Chromogenic print 8 x 10 inches Carnival at Ostende, 1977 Mixed media on canvas 93 ½ x 117 ¼ inches Free, White and 21, 1980 Color video with sound 12:15 minutes

Autobiography: Japan (Tombo No Hane), 1982 – 1983 Mixed media on canvas 66 ½ x 148 inches Autobiography: Japan (Mountain Reflection), 1982 – 1983 Mixed media on canvas 107 x 106 ¾ inches Autobiography: Africa (Ethiopia), 1985 – 1986 Mixed media on canvas 53 x 37 ½ inches

Autobiography: Africa (Red Frog II), 1986 Mixed media on canvas 78 x 70 inches

All works courtesy the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery, NY.

Howardena Pindell | Public Programs Calendar All events are free and open to the public.

The Art of Journaling: Using Your Journal as a Canvas for Self Expression through the Appreciation of Art Sunday, September 13, 2015 | 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Journals are written reflections that offer perspective on your experiences and observations. This art form is deeply personal and can be used as a tool for personal growth. Led by Jonetta Moyo and Althea Lawton-Thompson, The Art of Journaling will use creative visualization, expressive art activities, writing, gentle movement, and the brilliant works of Howardena Pindell to guide participants through a journey of self-expression. Jonetta Moyo

Althea Lawton-Thompson

The Art of Journaling is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Please visit to reserve a space. The Art of Journaling is organized in partnership with the Department of English, Veta Goler, and the Contemplative Practices and the Arts course.

Yoga in the Museum Mondays, September 14 – November 30, 2015 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. Enjoy a yoga class surrounded by works of art and engage in a practice that focuses on balance, focus, and strength. A certified yoga instructor will lead each of the classes: September 14, 21, and 28 | Ayodele Murphy October 5 and 12 | Rachelle Knowles October 19, 26, and November 2 | Chelsea Jackson Roberts November 9 and 16 | Vanya Francis November 23 and 30 | Jason Anderson Yoga in the Museum is free and open to beginner and experienced yogis. Space is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Additional support for Yoga in the Museum provided by Bloomingdale’s. Please contact us at 404.270.5607,, or @spelmanmuseum on Twitter with questions and for more information.

An Evening with Howardena Pindell and Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell Thursday, September 24, 2015 | 6:30 p.m. Join us for a landmark conversation between Howardena Pindell and Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell, President of Spelman College, on visual art, the art world, autobiography, and the creative process. This program is organized in collaboration with the Spelman College Department of Art & Art History and the National Black Arts Festival.

Community Day Saturday, September 26, 2015 | 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Look, move, and work together in the Museum during a special 70s/80s inspired Community Day. Take a guided tour of Howardena Pindell, create your own masterpiece in a make-and-take art workshop, and participate in an interactive dance class, among many other activities. Spend an arts-filled afternoon with us, and come early because the first 20 families will receive a special gift! Community Day is organized in collaboration with Art Smart Trends, Southwest Atlanta Grower’s Co-Op, and V. Kottavei Williams.

Conversation with the Curators

Wednesday, September 30, 2015 | 6:30 p.m. On Being Black: A Panel Discussion Saturday, October 17, 2015 | 11:00 a.m.

© Omar Victor Diop, Frederick Douglass, 2015. Pigment inkjet printing on Harman By Hahnemuhle paper. Courtesy the artist and Magnin-A.

Please join the Arnika Dawkins Gallery, Atlanta Celebrates Photography, and the Museum for a panel discussion featuring artists Sheila Pree Bright, Albert Chong, Allen Cooley, Renée Cox, Delphine Fawundu, John Pinderhughes, and Deborah Willis, Ph.D. The panel discussion will be moderated by Kirsten Pai Buick, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Art History at The University of New Mexico.

This program is organized in conjunction with the exhibition On Being Black, on view at the Arnika Dawkins Gallery from October 16, 2015 to January 22, 2016. This provocative and groundbreaking exhibition will feature work by 23 nationally renowned, mid-career and emerging fine art photographers and explores issues of race, colorism, and racial identity.

Welcome Home Day Party Friday, October 23, 2014 | 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Join alumni from Spelman College and Morehouse College for a special welcome home reception including interactive tours of the featured exhibition Howardena Pindell, music, and more. The Welcome Home Reception is organized in partnership with the Office of Alumnae Affairs.

Community Conversations

Community Conversations invites artists, Atlanta University Center faculty, staff, and students, and Friends of the Museum to connect their passions and interests to the works of art featured in Howardena Pindell.

Kristin Juárez looks at the accumulation of movement and time on the surfaces of Howardena Pindell’s paintings and video drawings. By focusing on the artist’s work through the framework of the moving image, Juárez views Pindell’s relationship between media images, screens, and her paintings as an investigation into the fleeting traces of time and movement. Painting as the Moving Image will use works in the exhibition to examine the influence of the televisual in the mark-making gestures of Howardena Pindell. This Community Conversation is organized in collaboration with the Department of English.

Photo Credit: Christina Price Washington

Kristin Juárez, Doctoral Student of Moving Image Studies, Georgia State University Tuesday, November 17, 2015 | 6:30 p.m. Painting as the Moving Image: The Televisual Gestures of Howardena Pindell


BLACK BOX is a site for play, dialogue, and creative risk taking that encourages artists of all disciplines to engage with others connected to their subject matter. If you are interested in participating, email with ‘BLACK BOX’ in the subject line for submission guidelines.

Andrea O’Neal Thursday, November 19, 2015 | 6:30 p.m. White Collar Black Body On July 2, 1964 the hard-fought battles of the Civil Rights movement garnered legislation to desegregate America’s workplaces. White Collar Black Body seeks to examine the myriad ways in which black workers are shaping and being shaped by the politics of Corporate America. This multi-media project aims to bring voice to the complex web of sociological, psychological, and economic dynamics experienced by black professionals. Deploying mediums such as creative writing, visual and performance art, and audio narrative, White Collar Black Body provides a space to unpack and affirm layers of black identity and ultimately dissect the heart of what it means to be black at work in 21st Century America. This program is organized in collaboration with the Ethel Waddell Githii Honors Program.

Guided Tours The Spelman College Museum of Fine Art provides guided tours of all of our exhibitions free of charge and open to the public. To schedule a tour, email with “Guided Tour” in the subject line.

Howardena Pindell is made possible by the Wish Foundation, Inc. and the LUBO Fund. Additional support provided by the Fulton County Commissioners under the guidance of Fulton County Arts & Culture.

fulton county arts & culture

Coming Spring 2016 Black Chronicles II

(January 28 – May 14, 2016) Black Chronicles II, an exhibition organized by Autograph ABP, London, in collaboration with the Hulton Archive, a division of Getty Images, is curated by Renée Mussai and Mark Sealy. It makes available for the first time newly discovered photographs that document the presence of black subjects in late 19th century Britain. Eleanor Xiniwe, The African Choir. London Stereoscopic Company, 1891. Courtesy of ©Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

BECOME A FRIEND Since 1996 the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art has distinguished itself as the only museum in the nation that focuses on art by and about women of the African Diaspora. In celebration of its 20th anniversary in 2016, the Museum is launching 20Forward, a fundraising initiative that will support our efforts create an institution that has lasting impact for today and beyond. As we shape the Museum’s legacy, we need your help in order to present exciting exhibitions, organize engaging programs, and acquire a signature work in honor of our 20th anniversary. Become a Friend of the Museum today and help us shape the next phase of the Museum’s evolution. To become a Friend and learn more about 20Forward, see or call 404.270.5607.







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SPELMAN COLLEGE MUSEUM OF FINE ART in the Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby, Ed.D. Academic Center GPS system address: 440 Westview Drive, SW 30310 350 Spelman Lane, Box 1526 | Atlanta, GA 30314 | 404.270.5607 | spelmanmuseum | @spelmanmuseum | spelmanmuseum Hours: Tuesdays - Fridays | 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Saturdays | Noon - 4:00 p.m. Closed Sunday, Monday, holidays, and Spelman College breaks

COVER IMAGE: Untitled, 1975. Mixed media on board, 14 x 11 inches. Courtesy the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York.

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Howardena Pindell Exhibition Brochure  

On view Aug. 25 - Dec. 5, 2015

Howardena Pindell Exhibition Brochure  

On view Aug. 25 - Dec. 5, 2015