The North Carolina Central University Art Museum will present an exhibit of works by modernist abstraction painter Felrath Hines. The exhibit, Color Balance: The Paintings of Felrath Hines, will open Sunday, Sept. 19, with a reception at 2 p.m.
Hines’ work has been described as “experimentations with cubism, abstract expressionism and geometric compositions.” In the 1960s he responded to the color field movement of abstract painting and used simple, flat compositions of circles, horseshoe shapes and flat planes in subtly harmonized hues. Later he painted hard-edged grid paintings inspired by Dutch painter Piet Mondrian that have a canny play with spatial illusion. For almost four decades Hines continued to develop within the mainstream parameters of Modernist abstraction using layered, atmospheric arrangements of simple, soft-edged forms in rich, slightly dissonant colors.
Born in Indianapolis in 1913, Hines studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the mid-1940s. He later studied conservation under legendary conservators Caroline and Sheldon Keck.
Hines was active in the civil rights movement and, after moving to New York, joined a club of African-American artists called the Spiral Group, which was formed by Romare Bearden in 1963. During this time, Hines begin to reject the label of a “black” artist. He strove to create works that offered "visual as well as spiritual pleasure" with universal imagery.
Eventually Hines would launch a successful conservation practice, with clients that included Georgia O’Keeffe, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Yale University Art Gallery, Fisk University and the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA). He later joined the Smithsonian Institution as chief conservator of the National Portrait Gallery in 1972, where he was entrusted with the preservation of two national icons, the Athenaeum Portraits by Gilbert Stuart of George and Martha Washington. From 1980 until he retired in 1984, he was chief conservator at the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
Despite his success as a conservator, Hines never abandoned painting. And from the late 1980s until shortly before his death in 1993, he was able to paint full-time for the first time in his life, and he experienced his most productive period of art-making.
His paintings and drawings are now included in more than 30 museums and university collections, including the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts/Houston, the National Museum of American Art, Yale University Art Gallery and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
This exhibit was developed by the NCCU Art Museum, the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and the Ackland Art Museum at UNC–Chapel Hill. In 2008, Hines’ widow, Dorothy Fisher, contacted each of the universities inviting them to visit her in Boston for the purpose of selecting works from the artist’s estate for their permanent collection. Each university selected five pieces. This show marks the first time that the full collection will be shown together.
The North Carolina Central University Art Museum is on Lawson Street and is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For general information or assistance, call (919) 530-6211.