Romare Bearden: The Caribbean Dimension
by Sally Price & Richard Price
The New York Times called Romare Bearden "the nation's foremost collagist," and a major retrospective of his work, organized by the National Gallery of Art, toured the USA several years ago. Bearden's portrayal of the African American experience in the United States – particularly scenes of Harlem and the rural South – are well known, but little has been published about his life in the French Caribbean, where he spent much of the final seventeen years of his life. In his home on the island of St. Martin, the roosters of North Carolina farmyards gave way to fighting cocks, and his palette took on the luminous colors of tropical sunsets and the coral sea. Diaphanous faces mark a state of deep trance in his Obeah paintings, and vibrant splashes of color fill his Carnival series. Poet Derek Walcott and writer Albert Murray are among those whose reminiscences help the Prices situate Bearden's place in art history and U.S. American consciousness.
This full-color book is lavishly illustrated with photos of Bearden in the Caribbean and over 100 color plates of Bearden's Caribbean art.
Romare Bearden's radiantly hued and jazzily structured collages and paintings celebrating the rural South and Harlem are well known. But so grand and complexly detailed is his oeuvre, one crucial facet has been given short shrift: his Caribbean works. The professors Price now redress that omission in this bright and lively volume. Bearden's wife was born on the Caribbean island of St. Martin, and the couple lived there for much of the 1970s and 1980s, until his death in 1988. Bearden, an exemplary colorist, discovered a "new brilliance" beneath the tropical sun and in the most luminous of mediums, watercolors. He also took a more fluid approach to collage. Three breathtaking series dominate: one depicting "enchanted places," another focusing on Obeah rituals, and the third capturing the catharsis of carnival. The Prices have emulated Bearden's gift for assemblage by juxtaposing their illuminating commentary with that of earlier critics, Bearden's own writings, and the observations of the literature-loving artist's writer friends, including Albert Murray, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Derek Walcott.
--Donna Seaman. Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.
"A delightful visual voyage!... With enough color to impress the most fervent fauvists, Romare Bearden features the pictorial flamboyance of Romare Bearden's impressive Caribbean oeuvre. A delightful visual voyage!"
----Art Times (five out of five stars)
"Simply stated, no serious academic library American art history collection can be considered complete or comprehensive without the inclusion of Romare Bearden: The Caribbean Dimension."
--Midwest Book Review