On February 6, 2021, “Icons of Nature and History” opened at the High Museum of Atlanta. It is a survey of the influential work of Georgia native David Driskell, who passed last April. This is a celebration of Driskell’s creative journey, spanning seven decades from 1950 to the 2000s. Key holdings from the High’s collection, as well as other museums, private collections and Driskell’s estate, represent the first time his paintings and works on paper have been shown together.
Driskell, who enjoyed a vibrant artistic practice, also curated and taught at several HBCUs as well as the University of Maryland, which is now home to the David C. Driskell Center. However, he always maintained a strong connection to the Atlanta arts community.
As a lifelong Trustee of the High, he mentored other artists, encouraging the museum to broaden its support and develop a more inclusive collection. In 2005 the High established the David Driskell Prize, which is the first national award presented to an African American emerging to mid-level artist. This exhibit is a wonderful reflection of Driskell’s expansive career and the High’s continued dedication to maintaining his vision.
There are several reasons for scholars, students and collectors to view this important exhibit:
1. His work provides a glimpse into the African American experience from the rural south to the urban north, during some of this country’s most turbulent and triumphant decades.
2. He developed a hybrid technique, “collage painting,” an innovative use of varied materials, which continues to echo in the work of the next generation of artists.
3. His unique interpretation of the natural world invites us to contemplate the dynamics between rich colors, textures, and lines.
4. His usage of African masks and other symbols help us to bridge the distance between the culture, place and people of the Diaspora.
5. Driskell was a groundbreaker and his body of work represents an important contribution to the canon of American Art History.
“David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History” is located on the second level of the High’s Anne Cox Chambers Wing. The exhibit will be on display until May 9, 2021. This is a wonderful day trip for families during Black History Month, who can also visit the African wing, which will deepen context and appreciation. However, this exhibit should also be engaging to everyone interested in the process and life art of becoming.
The museum is now open with timed entry. Visit: www.high.org for more information.