“Beverly Buchanan: Ruins and Rituals”

Through March 5
Curated by Jennifer Burris and Park McArthur


Beverly Buchanan

Beverly Buchanan (1940–2015) explored the relationship between memory—personal, historical, and geographical—and place. Engaging with the most vanguard movements of her time, including Land Art, Post-Minimalism, and feminism, she linked political and social consciousness to the formal aesthetics of abstraction.

The most comprehensive exhibition of Buchanan’s work to date, Beverly Buchanan—Ruins and Rituals presents approximately 200 objects, including sculpture, painting, photography, drawing, and notebooks of the artist’s writing as well as documentation of performances. A new video installation of her existing earthworks is presented for the first time.

“The house and its yard and the road behind and across”—the poetry of Beverly Buchanan’s description of the inspiration for her best-known sculpture was beautifully borne out in the works themselves, small architectures evoking, rooted in, but sometimes wildly departing from the shacks of her native South. For much of the art audience, Buchanan, who died in 2015, is a discovery of recent years, but her career dates back to the 1970s and includes site-specific earthworks, painting, photography, drawing, and concrete-block post- Minimalist sculpture, a range that this exhibition will provide a rare opportunity to see. The shacks—both intricate and raw, both informed and vernacular—will surely pull you in, but this show of approximately two hundred works promises a broader insight into Buchanan’s thought.

Buchanan was born in Fuquay, North Carolina, but grew up in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where her father was dean of the School of Agriculture at South Carolina State College, which was then the only state school for African Americans in South Carolina.
In 1962, Buchanan graduated from Bennett College, in Greensboro, North Carolina, a historically black women's college, with a bachelor of science degree in medical technology. She went on to attend Columbia University, where she received a master's degree in parasitology in 1968 and a master's degree in public health in 1969.

Although she was accepted to medical school, Buchanan decided not to go due to her desire to dedicate more time to her art. In 1971 she enrolled in a class taught by Norman Lewis at the Art Students League in New York City. During the 1970s Romare Bearden became her friend and mentor. Buchanan decided to become a full-time artist in 1977 after exhibiting her work in a new talent show at Betty Parsons Gallery. In the same year, she moved to Macon, Georgia.

Beverly Buchanan—Ruins and Rituals is organized by guest curators Jennifer Burris and Park McArthur, and coordinated by Catherine Morris, Sackler Family Curator for the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, and Cora Michael, Associate Curator of Exhibitions, Brooklyn Museum.

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