Collaborations: Two Decades of African American Art
Collaborations: Two Decades of African American Art celebrates and invites regional and national art enthusiasts, collectors, and educators to discover and reacquaint themselves with American artists of African descent. This exhibition is comprised of 57 artists who represent four generations of art making in America.
Director, Garbo Hearne‘s curatorial vision for this exhibition is to exemplify the multiple cultural influences and personal histories that reflect time, place, joy, pain, triumph, defeat and success. The selection of artists illuminate the diversity of styles and mediums inclusive of watercolor, pastel, sculpture, printmaking, photography, mixed media, fiber art, oil, and acrylic on canvas.
Within the last decade, dialogue throughout the United States has centered on multicultural and global sensibilities that encouraged a freedom to seek sustaining value from diverse traditions. The result is complex, intertwined styles and techniques combined with more than three hundred years of documented cultural effervescence.
Collaborations: Two Decades of African American Art uniquely presents African American artists who epitomize three distinct markets under the umbrella of African American art. These markets exist for all American artists, but structurally do not collide. They are the international market, which is defined by the collective activity of artists, dealers, collectors, curators, auction houses, critics, scholars, and appraisers. Conversely, the popular market is comprised of those who produce, market and sell their work directly to galleries, frame shops, art fairs and through the internet. The academic market includes artist teachers, and college art professors who sell their work in regional galleries, group shows, select fairs, and are not actively visible to the circle of fine art professionals, as previously cited.
Contrasting the hierarchy and elitism inherent within the art market, to the ability to place artists together based on their collective talent and cultural heritage, does more than commemorate twenty years of professional service to the arts community. It represents a benchmark in time, which is required for substance and maturity to emerge.
Hearne Fine Art’s evolution from a decorative popular print/frame shop business to a fine art gallery and bookstore parallels the adventure of many collectors and entrepreneurs. There is the romance of experience, the vision of possibility, the patience of consideration, and the humility to learn with, flexibility, adaptability and humanity.
The story of Hearne Fine Art begins in destiny’s theatre, in which Dr. Archie Hearne III, a native of San Francisco, avid bibliophile, patron of the arts and someone with a distinct appetite for social and political consciousness, met Arkansas native, Garbo Watson Hearne. She was a nurse in his office who was an avid reader and shared a passion for African American culture and history. They fell in love. They got married and began a family. Their children became the world and the world became their children.
With a greater sense of purpose, the Hearne’s decided to open a small gallery in 1988 called Pyramid Arts.. It was adjacent to a bookstore, which foreshadowed their future as booksellers. The inspiration for a gallery came from Archie Hearne’s associations with the San Francisco arts community and the encouragement of Memphis artist Kenneth Williamson and Dallas artist, Frank Frazier. The goal was to provide a place for artists to exhibit, sell, and share their work. This appealed to Archie who had collected limited edition prints and to Garbo who wanted a more balanced schedule with her family.
Garbo embraced the concept to introduce and educate people about African American art and artists through direct interaction and participation with the artists. She took the initiative to go to Dallas, Houston, and Memphis with the goal of identifying regional commercial artists for the gallery. Generally, these artists had decided not to wait for the established international marketplace to acknowledge their talent. Their reward came from collectors acquiring their work. Many became independent entrepreneurs and produced large print editions that were not hand pulled. Nonetheless, Garbo began to successfully sell their work in great quantity.
In January, 1989, the reward for her efforts was relocating from a 600 sq ft storefront to a 4000 sq ft space in the prominent Madison Guaranty Bank Building on downtown Main Street. Garbo took the initiative to learn about framing and established a frame center within the gallery for the convenience of her clients.. Every dealer recognizes that beyond mounting an exhibition and placing a work in a collection that they have to educate their audiences about t the artist, the mediums in which the artist work and the marketplace. She had discovered that art collectors simultaneously become bibliophiles for reference and pleasure. Thus said, the new space included a bookstore comprised of books on the Black Atlantic literary, performing, and visual arts. The name changed from Pyramid Gallery to Pyramid Art & Books
In 1997, nine years after establishing Pyramid Art & Books as the premier place for art by American’s of African descent in Arkansas, it became clear that the needs of her client base and the market required another redefinition of services. Archie and Garbo had the unique opportunity to design a completely new 3000 sq ft space within a building that had previously been a train station and newspaper printing press facility. This location was in the Rivermarket District near East Markam which became President Clinton Avenue in 2005, when the Presidential Library opened. In keeping with the spirit of revitalization in downtown Little Rock, and the desire to educate and expand their services, the Hearne’s renamed the gallery, Pyramid Art, Books & Custom Framing./Hearne Fine Art.
Garbo asserts that, “The goal was to distinguish the fact that we primarily focused our attention to Fine art and we decided to increase our exhibition/educational program schedule. We also stepped up the framing to exclusively specialize in conservation framing and removed it from the interior of the gallery.” In five years they curated more than 160 exhibitions. Unlike the previous location, the wall space in the gallery and bookstore is designated for original one of a kind art. Posters and limited edition work are confined to art bins to enable Hearne Fine Art to cater to their varied audience while raising the bar of service and art for their clients.
It was at this juncture that Garbo began to add more internationally acclaimed artists to her stable and discovered that by having a range of styles, mediums, and price points that she could continue to inspire and serve the diverse sphere of interest among those she serves. Along those lines, she decided to expand her geographic presence in the fine art arena.
The challenge would be how to bridge the gap between art, history, culture, and commerce in a manner that would provide positive opportunities for regional and national, commercial and fine artists in the marketplace. At this juncture, artist Benny Andrews provided invaluable insight into the market place for them to serve the needs of collectors and artists. To that end, Garbo decided in 1997 to begin a strategy to uniquely position Hearne Fine Art in the New York and Atlanta markets through her presence at annual art fairs like the National Black Fine Art Show and Embrace.
Due to the commitment, passion and team work between Garbo and Archie Hearne,
Collaborations: Two Decades of African American Art, Hearne Fine Art 1988-2008 provides insight into a personal legacy of two individuals whose contributions to the diverse markets under the umbrella of African American art reflects a process of maturity, versatility and commitment to a community of art enthusiasts, artists and collectors.
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