The Barnes to Display Artwork of Elijah Pierce

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with John and Robert Kennedy carved and painted on wood by self-taught African American artist Elijah Pierce. One might ask, “Why were these men grouped together by the artist?” and “Why the gold stars?”
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with John and Robert Kennedy carved and painted on wood by self-taught African American artist Elijah Pierce. One might ask, “Why were these men grouped together by the artist?” and “Why the gold stars?”

 Exhibit of African American Artist Begins September 27 

The Barnes Foundation will begin what it terms a landmark exhibition featuring the work of African American woodcarver Elijah Pierce in its Roberts Gallery beginning September 27, 2020. According to a recent release, this is the first important showing of Pierce’s work outside his home city of Columbus, Ohio, in more than 25 years. The Barnes is located at 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway and is open to the public from Friday to Monday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 

The exhibit, which will continue through January 10, 2021, is entitled “Elijah Pierce’s America” will display more than 100 works many of which reside in private collections and are rarely seen. Pierce was self-taught and created his carvings and paintings using wood, corrugated cardboard, crepe paper, house paint, aluminum foil, glitter, and rhinestones. His artistry reflects a strong religious faith and a broad world view.  

The Barnes Foundation press release notes that Pierce was born in 1892 on a farm in Baldwyn, Mississippi where he began carving at age 7 using a penknife his father gave him.  He came north to Columbus, Ohio, in 1924.  He worked there as a barber and preacher until 1954 when he started his own barbershop. This became a popular local meeting place was also his art studio where his subjects include everyone from Richard Nixon to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and from Hank Aaron to Warren Beatty.  

The Foundation also displays Dr. Albert Barnes world-renowned collection of the greatest French impressionist art with works by Renoir, Matisse, Cézanne, Gauguin, and others.

For more information about the exhibit and to purchase tickets, visit www.barnesfoundation.org or phone  215.278.7000.

From the Collection of Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz. (Information for this article was taken a release by The Barnes Foundation, abridged by Ted Behr)

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