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Segregation
Confrontation
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NCCU Museum of Art to Host Benny Andrews Exhibit
Published: Friday, February 06, 2009

The first major North Carolina exhibition of internationally respected artist Benny Andrews will open at the North Carolina Central University Art Museum on February 15, 2009. Benny Andrews: The John Lewis Series is the last series Andrews produced before his death in 2006. It documents and celebrates the life of John Lewis, civil rights advocate and United States Congressman. Lewis is a living legend of the civil rights movement and was one of the big six civil rights leaders of the 1960s.
 
This exhibition will be a wonderful opportunity to view the full range of Benny Andrews’ artistic genius," said Kenneth Rodgers, director, North Carolina Central University Art Museum. "We are grateful for the generosity of the Atlanta Center for Civil and Human Rights and the Mason Murer Gallery of Atlanta for making this North Carolina showing possible.”  The exhibit will be on display until April 24, 2009.
 
The Exhibition
Approximately 37 works will explore the complexity and scope of the artist’s mature style and will feature John Lewis’ recollection of key episodes in his life and his unwavering fight for civil rights. Andrews’ expressionist style often depicted a diverse range of themes of suffering and injustice.

By gluing figures, interior room components, trees, clouds, farm animals, and architecture onto larger surfaces, this series of Andrews’ late work is remarkable for the artist’s individualistic approach to texture, color and particularly collage. Highlights include The Pettus Bridge (2005), which measures nearly 3 x 6 feet. Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama was the beginning point for the fifty-four mile walk to Montgomery. John Lewis led nearly six hundred people to the bridge which culminated in an attack by state troopers and became known as Bloody Sunday. 
 
Also included is Confrontation, which also measures nearly 3 x 6 feet. The compelling historical narratives in this work and others, barely transcends the artist’s process of creating pictures, through a masterful orchestration of every component of the painting. Fifteen thousand black adults were eligible to vote but were denied the right in Selma, Alabama. Lewis and other SNCC workers began leading groups of people to the Selma courthouse to register to vote.  Each time they appeared, they would be confronted by Jim Clark, the sheriff of Selma, who was determined not to let blacks register to vote.  Eighteen additional mixed media works focus on Lewis’ work for voters' rights in the south. The exhibition includes drawings that are critical to the genesis of his large-scale paintings, but also demonstrate Andrews’ mastery of pure contour line drawing.
 
The Artist
Andrews was born to sharecropper parents in 1930 and, along with nine siblings, grew up in segregated rural Georgia. He was the first member of his family to graduate from high school, and after a stint in the U.S. Air Force, earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Chicago Art Institute. In addition to teaching at Queens College, City University of New York for 29 years, Andrews was an active arts advocate, creating a prison arts program; serving as director of the National Endowment for the Arts; and organizing the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition to support other black artists. His work is in the permanent collections of more than thirty major museums, including the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Smithsonian Institution, Studio Museum of Harlem and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The works have been purchased for the Center for Civil and Human Rights, which is scheduled to open in Atlanta in 2010. 
 
The North Carolina Central University Art Museum is located on Lawson Street across from the Farrison-Newton Communications Building. Every effort is made to make all museum events accessible to the handicapped. For general information or assistance, please call 530-6211. For group visits, please call in advance. The Museum is open Sunday from  2:00p.m.- 5:00 p.m.; and Tuesday through Friday from 9:00a.m.- 4:30p.m.  Admission is free and open to the public.

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