New Exhibit Explores the Work of Harold Neal and Other African American Artists from Detroit

The exhibition will be on display at the Eastern Michigan University Art Gallery through Oct. 20
harold neal
A new exhibit at Eastern Michigan University focuses on the work of Detroit artist Harold Neal. Above is one of his pieces i Title Unknown, Riot Series, 1960s, oil on board

According to art historians at Eastern Michigan University, Detroit artist Harold Neal created some of the “most forceful artistic statements” of the Civil Rights, Black Power, and Black Arts Movements. In a new exhibit, titled Harold Neal and Detroit African American Artists: 1945 through the Black Arts Movement, locals will get the opportunity to learn more about Neal as well as the development of the Detroit African American art community in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, and how these movements influenced their work.


The exhibit opens today at the Eastern Michigan’s University Gallery, located at 900 Oakwood St. in Ypsilanti. It, of course, focuses on the life and work of Neal, but it also spotlights his predecessors Hughie Lee Smith and Oliver LaGrone; his contemporaries, including Charles McGee, Glanton Dowdell, and Shirley Woodson; and his successors Aaron Ibn Proi Pitts and Allie McGhee. An accompanying, fully illustrated catalog expands on the themes explored in the exhibit.

Shirley Woodson
Martha’s Vandellas, 1969, oil on linen, by Shirley Woodson is among the pieces on display in the new exhibit. Woodson, who was a contemporary of Harold Neal’s, will also speak on a panel on Oct. 17. // Photograph courtesy of Eastern Michigan University

Detroit jazz group Marion Hayden Trio will play at the opening of the exhibit. Then on Oct. 12, Rebecca Zurier, an associate professor of history of art at the University of Michigan, will present a lecture titled “Detroit’s Black Power Murals as Public Art” at the Halle Library Auditorium on Eastern Michigan’s campus.


Harold Neal and Detroit African American Artists will be on display at the University Gallery through Oct. 20. A closing reception will take place on Oct. 17. Following the reception, the gallery will present a panel with McGhee, Woodson, Detroit artist Tylonn Sawyer, and Samantha Noel, who is an associate professor of art history at Wayne State University.


Following its run at Eastern Michigan, the exhibit will be on display at Wayne State from Nov. 4 through Jan. 20, and the Marshall Fredericks Museum from Feb. 1 through April 14.  


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