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Elizabeth Catlett: Artist As Activist

Elizabeth Catlett: Artist as Activist
On view October 26, 2019 – March 1, 2020

Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012), a sculptor and printmaker, is widely considered one of the most important African American artists of the 20th century. The exhibition includes 20 prints and 14 sculptures by Catlett, as well as one print by her husband, Mexican artist Francisco Mora.

Throughout her career Catlett used art in support of issues that mattered to her – freedom, race and ethnicity, feminism and maternalism – and fought oppression, racism, class and gender inequality. An American and Mexican citizen, Catlett is best known for her depictions of African American women, the African American experience, and Mexican people who faced injustice. For Catlett, art was a tool for social and political change. In 1952 she said, “I believe that art should come from the people and be for the people.”

While living in Mexico, Catlett was not afraid to use her art  to confront the plight of the Mexican worker, especially sharecroppers, as well as  injustices against African Americans during the Jim Crow era. She continued her fight for equality in politically charged, black expressionist sculptures and prints created during the 1960s and 70s..

Elizabeth Catlett was the recipient of numerous awards, recognitions, and honorary doctorate degrees, including a Lifetime Achievement Award in contemporary sculpture from the International Sculpture Center in 2003. She died at the age of 96 in her home in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

Major support for this exhibition was provided by Eddie C. and C. Sylvia Brown. Additional support was provided by Kaiser Permanente, our Health and Wellness partner.

Image creditSharecropper © Catlett Mora Family Trust / VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY