Published: June 5, 2012
Among the most important works in the African American art canon, the monumental canvases that Hale Aspacio Woodruff painted for Talladega College in 1938 are on their first national tour. The murals, depicting the African American struggle for freedom and the founding of the historically black college Talladega College, will travel to Atlanta, Dallas, New York, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Hartford, Detroit and Birmingham.
Ranging in size from 6-by-10-feet to 6-by-20-feet, the murals have been removed from where they were painted in situ at Talladega College’s Savery Library and conserved by the Atlanta Art Conservation Center, under the auspices of the High Museum of Art. The murals and the discoveries made during the conservation process will be exhibited in “Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College,” on view at the High June 9⁓eptember 2.
Comprising six monumental canvases arranged in two cycles of three, the vibrant murals portray heroic efforts to resist slavery as well as important moments in the history of the college, which opened in 1867 to serve the educational needs of a new population of freed slaves.
The first cycle includes “The Mutiny On The Amistad ,” depicting the uprising on the slave ship La Amistad ; “The Trial of the Amistad Captives,” showing what followed the mutiny; and “The Repatriation of the Freed Captives,” portraying the subsequent freedom and return to Africa of the Amistad captives. Companion murals are “The Underground Railroad,” “The Building of Savery Library” and “Opening Day at Talladega College.”
“Preserving and exhibiting these murals holds a particular relevance for the people of Atlanta,” said Michael E. Shapiro, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green Jr director. “Hale Woodruff was of central importance to the burgeoning art scene here in the 1930s and 40s and an integral figure in the history of public art in the Southeast.
In March 2011, the High Museum of Art and Talladega College in Alabama began a five-year collaborative project to restore, research and exhibit Woodruff”s Talladega murals.
Commissioned in 1938 to commemorate the 1867 founding of Talladega College and celebrate its success as one of the nation’s first all-black colleges, the murals have been continuously viewed on campus since their installation in the lobby of Savery Library.
The exhibition at the High Museum includes works that span Woodruff’s career, with a particular focus on his important work as a muralist. In addition to the Talladega murals and studies, this exhibition features examples of Woodruff’s other mural commissions as well as smaller-scale paintings he made while in Mexico, where he went in 1936 to study mural painting with Diego Rivera.
The exhibition will travel to the African American Museum in Dallas October 6 to February 28, 2013, and 80WSE Gallery at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture July 20 to October 13, 2013.
The High Museum of Art is at 1280 Peachtree Street Northeast. For information, www.high.org or 404-733-4400.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm