DAVID DRISKELL Creative Spirit: Five Decades


David Driskell, "Woman with Flowers," 1972. Oil and collage on canvas. 37 1/2" x 38 1/2". Courtesy DC Moore Gallery, NY.

A curator, painter, teacher, historian, and builder of private art collections (including those of Bill Cosby and Oprah Winfrey), David Driskell has spent a lifetime using the language of art to reflect African-American history. This retrospective of his own work, a celebration of the artist’s 80th birthday, is ripe with this legacy. His early pieces signal Driskell’s place among a group of prominent African-Americans who, like him, came of age during Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1960s. In “Jazz Singer (Lady of Leisure, Fox)” (1974), for example, the singer’s face brings to mind that of Sugar as played by Margaret Avery in Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film adaptation of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (1982). There are instances when Driskell’s painting rewrites art history. His collage technique, used in “Jazz Singer,” borrows from that of Romare Bearden, whom Driskell promoted to ensure Bearden’s inclusion in the canon of American art history. Driskell also deserves a place in the pantheon of the Pattern and Decoration movement. See, for example, works like “Our Ancestors, Festival” (1973), with its painterly references to Kuba cloth and Islamic calligraphy wrapped up in Driskell’s distinct, just-south-of-primary palette. All to say that Driskell’s life’s work is made manifest in his art. Thank you, Mr. Driskell, for using art to make our world more inclusive and more vibrant.


Bridget Goodbody


FEB 2012

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