After pandemic delays, “Young, Gifted and Black: The Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection of Contemporary Art,” a traveling exhibition, is making its West Coast debut at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at University of California, Davis.
The exhibition features artwork by emerging artists of African descent that deal with identity, politics and art history. The 51 works of art were selected from the private collection of Bernard I. Lumpkin and Carmine D. Boccuzzi, art patrons based in New York City.
“The selections made highlight an emerging generation of Black artists engaging the work of their predecessors, while also mining new, and in many instances more colorful, vocabularies of symbolism,” Matt Wycoff, one of the curators of the exhibition, said in the exhibition’s accompanying essay “In Color, on the Land.”
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The exhibition at the Manetti Shrem Museum debuted on July 28, with a fall season celebration planned for Sept. 25, featuring an artist conversation between Loie Hollowell and Sadie Barnette, as students arrive on campus for the upcoming school year.
“We’ll have a special artist talk and music,” Laura Compton, a communications specialist for the museum, said. “We tend to have artists and collectors and people who are very involved coming to that event.”
The exhibition will remain open until Dec. 19, with the public welcomed to the museum free of charge.
“We are free for all, always,” Compton added.
The exhibition, which was curated by Wycoff and Antwaun Sargent for the Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection, was also worked on for Manetti Shrem by curator Susie Kantor, who arranged the museum’s presentation of the works.
“Young, Gifted and Black” is organized into four themes: dramatic use of color, reclamation of the color black, materiality and expanded ideas of portraiture.
Works featured include Tunji Adeniyi-Jones’ “Blue Dancer,” an oil painting on canvas, and Wilmer Wilson IV’s “Pres,” a portrait of two people made with pigment print and staples on wood.
One of Compton’s favorite pieces is “A mother who had no mother,” a portrait by Chiffon Thomas made with embroidery floss, acrylic paint and canvas on a window screen.
The museum was set to show the traveling exhibition in 2020 before delaying it because of pandemic-related closures of the Manetti Shrem. Kantor, who curated the arrangement for the museum, said she had been living with the pieces in her mind for the two-year delay.
One work of art, “The Nights I Don’t Remember, the Nights I Can’t Forget,” a painting by Arcmanoro Niles, has struck her since she first saw it years ago. Niles uses glitter, along with oil and acrylic paint to cover a large canvas with pink, red and orange colors.
“That was the one that stopped me in my tracks. Hopefully, everyone else has a similar reaction,” Kantor said. “It’s a great piece to draw people in, and that’s part of why I put it on the title wall.”
The exhibition at the museum has also been accompanied by a separate piece from the private Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Collection by Tavares Strachan. “I belong here,” a blue neon sign spelling out the titular message, hangs on the wall at the entrance to the museum, which Compton said sets the tone of welcoming and inclusion that the Manetti Shrem hopes to make clear.
“It’s just a really great way to spark conversation about who belongs in museums, who belongs in campuses and college,” Compton said. “It’s just the larger ideas around belonging and art.”
The museum aims to show exhibitions that can connect with students at UC Davis, especially through welcoming younger and less established artists. Compton and Kantor said that the “Young, Gifted and Black” exhibition’s focus on emerging artists fits well with the museum’s mission.
Lumpkin, one of the owners of the collection, also chose to tour the exhibition almost exclusively to college and university campus museums with hopes to bring students in to view the artwork.
“It’s really about being an educational tool,” Kantor said. “Having this extraordinary collection with this high caliber work of art by so many different artists is really important for our students and our campus community to be able to be exposed to these artists.”
The exhibition’s West Coast debut also allows Northern Californians to see a largely East Coast-based group of artists in a venue closer to home.
“Anytime we can bring more of these artists that aren’t based here and expand everyone’s notion of being able to see what’s happening in the art world and see different kinds of art, I think that’s really important,” Kantor said.
Of the artists featured in the exhibition, a few are from the Bay Area, including Sadie Barnette, who is from Oakland. Barnette’s work, “Untitled (People’s World),” uses paint on papers from the FBI file on her father “as an act of artistic reclamation,” Wycoff said.
“Young, Gifted and Black: The Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection of Contemporary Art” runs through Dec. 19 at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, 254 Old Davis Road, Davis. The museum is free and open to the public 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, visit https://manettishremmuseum.ucdavis.edu/.