Romare Bearden is known for his urban scenes-views of Pittsburgh and New York, where he grew up. But for the last 15 years or so before the artist's death in 1988, something softer and gentler glowed in his work, in scenes from the South, set in Charlotte - where he was born - and the surrounding Mecklenburg County.
This exhibition, subtitled "An Artist Remembers His Birthplace," was full of heart and depth, revealing just how inspired Bearden was by "home." Themes of family, landscape, and daily life, as well as the female form, were visited and revisited in the selection of collage paintings and prints, shown on the centennial of the artist's birth.
A majestic woman wearing a turquoise wrap centers Mecklenburg Evening (1981), while a seminude figure bathes behind her. In the foreground is a sumptuous still life - flowers, book, bread knife, cup, and bowl of fruit. Such domestic objects fill Bearden's interiors - lamps and chairs stand like silent witnesses to his human narrative. He especially loved brooms, using them as a handy vertical to spike his horizontal lines.
The artist often focused on women, depicting them tending children or their gardens. And then there was the sensuous side, given free rein here in several nudes. Languid and lovely, a woman on her stomach stretches across the bottom half of Mecklenburg County: The Daybreak Express (1978). A train trailing a plume of smoke is visible through a window. A curvy cane chair rhymes with and plays off the figure.
Quilting time, night chores, a guitarist fingering his instrument: Bearden's specific but never literal memories of the South became a rich catalyst for his soaring imagination. These works brim with the quiet magic of the everyday.