Look at This! ‘Romare Bearden: Urban Rhythms and Dreams of Paradise’ at ACA Galleries

January 29, 2013

From Nov. 2011 through Oct. 2012, the Studio Museum in Harlem celebrated the 100th anniversary of Romare Bearden’s birth with “The Bearden Project,” a magisterial three-part series of shows of work by artists who were influenced by the artist, from Trenton Doyle Hancock to Iona Rozeal Brown. Those who want to continue the celebration of Bearden, who lived from 1911 to 1988, should head over to ACA Galleries, which, through Feb. 23, is presenting an exhibition called “Romare Bearden: Urban Rhythms and Dreams of Paradise” that includes a trove of his pieces from the 1970s and ’80s. The works show an artist in top form in his late years, experimenting with an absolutely delectable cacophony of colors and collaged forms. The pieces range from hallucinogenic forest scenes filled with swooping birds, like Mecklenburg Evening (1984), to intricate street scenes bearing more than a dozen figures, working and playing and lounging, as in On Such a Night as This (1975). Bearden’s sense of control, whether over scores of little slices of cut paper or just a few dashes of watercolor, astounds. For me, the works here recall Wangechi Mutu’s trippiest moments and Tom Thayer’s most frenetic scenes—two people I had never before seen as such clear Bearden descendants. No doubt a wild array of other associations will come to you when viewing his sumptuous—and ultimately generous—art.