The Columbia Global Centers in Paris and Istanbul will create a region-specific pairing of Bearden’s work with that of local artists, organize panels and musical events with scholars and other experts, and facilitate community discussions. Viewers will be asked to consider multiple layers of Bearden and Homer's narratives: What is African about their art? What is Asian? What is European? What is Middle Eastern? What is transnationally American? These exhibitions also raise questions that extend beyond any specific region or time period. What does this art—the poetry and the painting—teach us about our prospects and responsibilities as citizens of the globe? For the most emphatic motive of these exhibitions, wherever they travel, is to offer what art shares uniquely: equipment for everyday living.
The Paris center will be the first destination. “Romare Bearden’s Paris Odyssey” opens Jan. 19, 2015 with Bearden’s Odyssey and Iliad works joined by reproductions of Henri Matisse’s Odysseus series, created for James Joyce’s Ulysses. Also on view will be Matisse’s landmark book Jazz, a work particularly significant for Bearden, who, following Matisse’s example, chose cut-outs-en-collage as the signature style of his mature years.
The Istanbul center, in partnership with the Greek Consulate in Turkey, opens the second leg of this exhibition’s journey in Istanbul on April 15, 2015. Along with works from Bearden's Black Odyssey series*, “Blue Voyagers: The Art of Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu and Romare Bearden” will feature works by Eyüboğlu, who, like Bearden, was instrumental in blending modern Western aesthetics with Anatolian themes. Both artists worked in mosaic and collage, and both created huge commissioned works—statements addressing the broad public on questions both aesthetic and political.
*Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey is organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in cooperation with the Romare Bearden Foundation and Estate and DC Moore Gallery. The exhibition and its related educational resources are supported by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.