Hyde Park Art Center celebrates Chicago-based artist Robert Earl Paige’s largest solo exhibition to date

Hyde Park Art Center celebrates Chicago-based artist Robert Earl Paige’s largest solo exhibition to date

Images available for download HERE

The United Colors of Robert Earl Paige explores the artist’s lifelong quest for beauty with over one hundred objects spanning six decades of work

CHICAGO (February 21, 2024)— Hyde Park Art Center, the renowned nonprofit hub for contemporary art located on Chicago’s vibrant South Side, proudly presents The United Colors of Robert Earl Paige, the career-spanning survey of artist, designer, and educator Robert Earl Paige (b. 1936). With multimedia works made between 1964 and 2024, this solo show is the largest presentation of the Chicago native’s work to date, including rarely seen parts of Paige’s collection that explore the artist’s lifelong quest for beauty and equality. The exhibition features public programming made in close collaboration with the community, including a series of public talks with artists and scholars; performance and workshop collaborations with Honey Pot Performance Collective and Hyde Park Jazz Festival; and a series of free community art making activities at the Art Center and unconventional spaces like community gardens, barber shops, laundromats, and churches throughout Chicago’s South Side. Curated by Allison Peters Quinn, Director of Exhibition & Residency Programs at the Hyde Park Art Center, the exhibition is on view from April 6 until October 27, 2024.

Inspired equally by modernist aesthetics and the traditional basket weaving techniques and symbology of West African cultures, Paige seeks to encourage liberation for all. His signature “Power to the People” design motif of half circles building upward and outward in an organized mesh of individuals expresses how simple gestures and lines can depict solidarity. Visitors will see rounded forms found in nature, wavy lines responding to jazz improvisation, and geometric abstractions guided by Adinkra symbols in African culture.

Raised in the Woodlawn neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, where he still resides, Paige makes artworks in response to the patterns and textures of everyday Black life. Another highlight of the exhibition is the debut of recent clay, wall/floor paintings, and collage made during Paige’s Radicle Residency at Hyde Park Art Center in 2022-23. Recurring themes stand out across decades and medium, demonstrating his steadfast observation of American culture and Black community. 

Featuring over one hundred artworks and artifacts from the artist’s personal archive, the expansive exhibition shows how Paige’s work moves beyond the use of commercial textiles for retail, interior design, and fashion, into original silk paintings, drawings, collage, and ceramics. The United Colors of Robert Earl Paige will showcase the dynamic color palette, pattern, and play in the artist’s multimedia works, and feature new and recent rugs, textile, and furniture Paige made in collaboration with Oscar Isberian Rugs, The Weaving Mill/ Emily Winter and artist Jeffrey Robinson for Hyde Park Art Center.

In addition to presenting Paige’s singular graphic style, the show incorporates Paige’s pedagogy as a longtime teaching artist working with youth in the Midwest, Harlem (New York), and South Africa. The exhibition will include a room dedicated to hands-on art making activities grounded in Paige’s principles of design that will be activated weekly with free public workshops led by Community Engagement Fellow, Keny De La Peña. 

As part of The United Colors of Robert Earl Paige, the Hyde Park Art Center will present a companion exhibition, Parapluie, in an adjacent gallery that features the works of local artists Paige identifies as being in his peer-to-peer creative network. The parapluie, or umbrella in French, is how Paige describes the circles of artists that mutually support each other and regularly exchange ideas, skills, solutions, and materials.

The exhibition and corresponding public programs are part of Art Design Chicago, a citywide collaboration initiated by the Terra Foundation for American Art that highlights the city’s artistic heritage and creative communities. 

 

SCHEDULE

Exhibition Reception

Saturday, April 6, 1-4PM, Free

The Art Center celebrates the opening of The United Colors of Robert Earl Paige with the artist as a part of their quarterly Center Days, which activate the entire building with intergenerational art-making activities, artist workshops, artist talks, open studios, and community collaborations. Visitors are invited to make screen prints inspired by Robert Earl Paige’s work on view in the exhibition.

Expo South Side Night 

Tuesday, April 9, 6-8PM, Free

The United Colors of Robert Earl Paige artist, Robert Earl Paige, and curator, Allison Peters Quinn, lead a tour of the exhibition. 

The People’s Ring Shout

Saturday, May 4, 1-2:30PM, Free

Honey Pot Performance presents The People’s Ring Shout, a creative writing and movement series inspired by traditional ring shout rituals. Honey Pot Performance collective members reimagine the ring shout to present exercises using collective play, images, video, audio, and reading excerpts to focus on themes critical to Black lives such as representation, love, trauma, quality of life, spirituality, healing, and defining communities of care.

A Landmark of Work: African Americans in Decorative Arts

Thursday, July 11, 6-8PM, Free

How are artists currently using traditional or historical methods of production in contemporary

design? Artists and art historians discuss the pivotal contributions of African Americans to the canon of decorative arts like textile design, jewelry, metalworking, and woodworking. Panelists include artists Robert Paige and Norman Teague and Art Conservator and Researcher Lamar Gayles. The conversation will be moderated by African American Studies Historian Rikki Byrd.

The Existence of Black Art

Saturday, August 1, 1-3PM, Free

Artists, archivists, and curators will discuss the state of Black artists, artist communities, and movements across history and how the overlooked contributions of Black artists have led to movements like AfriCOBRA and the Black Arts Movement, in which Robert Earl Paige was a critical figure. This discussion will speak about the existence, and non-existence, of Black artists in larger art movements, and how artists today are re-contextualizing history and paving their own way for visibility in the contemporary art world. Panelists include Parapluie exhibition artist, the sculptor and muralist Bernard Williams; Antawan I. Byrd, curator; and archivist Skyla S. Hearn. The conversation will be moderated by art historian and Black Arts Movement School Modality Founder, Romi Crawford.  

Hyde Park Jazz Festival Collaboration

Saturday, September 28, Time TBD, Free

Improvisation and rhythm are essential to Robert Earl Paige’s process and composition. The Art Center hosts a live concert in the exhibition gallery that will explore the role of musical themes in his work.

Notes From the Woodshed Drop-In Gallery Sessions

Weekly on Wednesdays from June to September, 11AM-2PM, Free

Community Engagement Fellow Keny De La Peña leads free, all-ages art making workshops biweekly in The United Colors of Robert Earl Paige, with drop-ins by the artist to discuss his work, art practice, and life as a designer, educator, and textile maker.

 

EXHIBITION CATALOG

The exhibition will be accompanied by the first monograph catalog dedicated to Robert Earl Paige and feature essays by Romi Crawford, Gervais Marsh, and Allison Peters Quinn, among others. The publication will be distributed by Hyde Park Art Center’s in-house publishing arm Green Lantern Press.

 

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Robert Earl Paige (b. 1936, Chicago) is an interdisciplinary artist, designer, and educator actively making work that challenges the distinction between fine art and craft by combining elements from African aesthetic traditions, modernist painting, Bauhaus architecture, and vernacular invention in his objects, collages, and fabrics. He earned a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and began his career working for the architectural design firm Skidmore Owings and Merrill before transitioning to creating commercial objects and fashion. He has partnered with commercial enterprises such as the Italian fashion house Fiorio and Sears, Roebuck and Co. department stores to produce scarves and interior decor respectively. His signature line the Dakkabar Collection was sold nationwide in over one hundred Sears stores and included several bedroom and home furnishing pieces inspired by West African imagery with a contemporary palette in the 1970s. 

Paige participated early in the Black Arts Movement, and believes strongly in its ideology of community participation in art and culture, which continues to be of focus in his pedagogy today. He has taught art and design principles to youth through Gallery 37 (Chicago) and is a frequent lecturer with the nomadic Black Arts Movement School Modality. Paige has been an artist-in-residence for many organizations, including the Cabrini Green neighborhood alliance, DuSable Museum of African American History, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (New York), Ndebele Foundation (South Africa), and Hyde Park Art Center.  Works by Robert Paige have been exhibited at Salon94 Design and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City, and in Chicago at the SMART Museum of Art and the Chicago Cultural Center, among others.

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