Elizabeth Catlett at Hammond House (ATLANTA)

 

Art History of the African Diaspora: Elizabeth Catlett: Sculpting the Truth 

March 31 / 1pm 
The documentary film, Elizabeth Catlett: Sculpting the Truth reflects an intimate conversation with Elizabeth Catlett, whose technically flawless abstracted sculptures of the human form reflected her deep concern with the African American experience and the struggle for dignity and social justice.  Her work is a mixture of abstract and figurative in the Modernist tradition, with influence from African and Mexican art traditions. According to the artist, her main purpose of her work is its social messages rather than pure aesthetics.

Elizabeth Catlett (b. April 15, 1915.[2] –d. April 2, 2012[3]) was an African-American graphic artist and sculptor who is best known for her depiction of the African-American experience in the 20th century, especially those focusing on women. She was born and raised in Washington, DC to parents that worked in education, and was the grandchild of freed slaves. At the time it is nearly impossible for a black woman to pursue a career as a working artist and much of Catlett’s career was dedicated to teaching. However, a fellowship allowed her to travel to Mexico City where she worked with the Taller de Gráfica Popular for twenty years as well as headed the sculpture department of the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas until 1975. In the 1950s, her work shifted from print to sculpture although she never complete gave up the former.

Her work is a mixture of abstract and figurative in the Modernist tradition, with influence from African and Mexican art traditions. According to the artist, her main purpose of her work is its social messages rather than pure aesthetics. While not very well known to the general public, her work is heavily studied by art students looking to depict race, gender and class issues. During her lifetime, Catlett received many prizes and recognitions including membership in the Salón de la Plástica Mexicana, the Art Institute of Chicago Legends and Legacy Award, honorary doctorates from Pace University and Carnegie Mellon and the International Sculpture Center’s Lifetime Achievement Award in contemporary sculpture.


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