Tiny Paintings: Handmade Artist Cards from the Charles Alston Collection

February 1, 2016 - March 31, 2016

Charles Alston with a paintingCharles Alston (1907-1977) worked as a Modernist painter, illustrator, art instructor, and was a member of the New York City Art Commission (1970-1973). He was born in Charlotte, NC but lived and worked in New York alongside a variety of mid-century artists, architects, writers, and performers.

During this era, artists sent each other greeting cards as a way to share their work with friends and colleagues, exchange ideas, and reinforce professional networks. They were also a way for African-American artists like Alston to distribute their work in an art world that often paid little attention to African Americans. Many of the cards Alston collected from his friends and colleagues are original artworks, made in the same style as the paintings or illustrations the artists used in their larger works. The cards, featuring both realistic and abstract images, were created using fine art techniques and materials such as paintings, collage work, pen and ink drawings, and vinyl cut prints.

All materials in this exhibit came from the Charles Henry Alston Papers #04931, Southern Historical Collection, except where noted. This exhibit was curated by the staff of the Southern Historical Collection and Dr. John P. Bowles (associate professor in the UNC art department and affiliate of UNC’s Institute for African American Research).

The exhibition coincided with the Ackland Art Museum’s Beyond Walls: Designs for Twentieth-Century American Murals, which included works by Charles Alston.

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