The Mitchell Art Museum at St. John’s College Opens Spring Shows Featuring Work of Black Artists and Prints by Rockwell Kent
Press Release: April 9
St. John’s College today announced that the Elizabeth Myers Mitchell Art Museum will present two exhibitions from April 9 through June 5: “Love by Looking: Selections from the Collection of Alitash Kebede,” and “The Prints of Rockwell Kent: Selections from the Ralf C. Nemec Collection.”
“The exhibitions offer a study in contrasts,” says Peter Nesbett, Director of the Mitchell Art Museum, of the “Love by Looking” and Rockwell Kent exhibitions. “One was assembled as a way for an art dealer to remember friends—many now deceased—through their art. The other is the result of a near obsessive quest by one man to possess all the artwork of another man he never met. Though both exhibitions are drawn from private collections—one in Los Angeles, the other Long Island—they couldn’t be more different. They represent contrasting perspectives on why people buy art.”
Admission to the museum and associated exhibition events is free and open to the public. Museum hours from April 9 through May 14 are Wednesday through Sunday, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., and Fridays until 8 p.m. Beginning May 15, the museum will be open Friday through Sunday, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Mondays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The “Love by Looking: Selections from the Collection of Alitash Kebede” exhibition showcases the notable collection of Los Angeles-based art dealer and documentary film-producer Alitash Kebede. But it is also about how Kebede, an Ethiopian immigrant, helped create the market for the art of Black artists in the United States. The show includes work by Romare Bearden, Ed Clark, Jacob Lawrence, and many others.
The “Love by Looking” exhibit kicks off on Saturday, April 8, with two special events: a conversation between Bentley Brown, the exhibition’s curator, and Kebede about her life, experience, collection, and the value of friendship when forging social change at 5:30 p.m., followed by a concert and poetry reading at 6:30 p.m. in the Mellon Hall Lobby, located immediately outside the art museum. The Nag Champa Art Ensemble is a D.C.-based music group that performs futuristic funk, blending house music with jazz, hip-hop, go-go, and more elements that sound like something from another universe. The performance will be accompanied by a reading of Lucille Clifton poems.
Additional free museum events include an hourlong tai chi session with Kebede on Sunday, April 9 at 10 a.m., followed by a screening of the documentary Richard Hunt Sculptor at 5 p.m. On Sunday, April 30, the museum hosts a group reading and discussion on the poetry and life of Baltimore-based Lucille Clifton (1936–2010), with Darlene R. Taylor, a writer, Howard University lecturer, and Clifton House board member. For more information on the poetry discussion and to RSVP, visitsjc.edu/mitchell. On Saturday, May 6, at 4 p.m. Annapolis-based multi-disciplinary artist Comacell Brown (aka Spitfire) will share his reflections on the exhibition in a casual gallery tour. Brown is the 2021 Anne Arundel Visual Artist of the Year.
“The Kebede Collection is grounded in friendship,” says Nesbett. “She knew all the artists, and together they fought for both equal representation in the art world, and more robust Black patronage for Black art. For me, it raises interesting questions around intersections of the professional, the political, and the personal.”
In addition to the “Love by Looking” exhibit, the museum will feature “The Prints of Rockwell Kent: Selections from the Ralf C. Nemec Collection.” This exhibition of 50 works is the largest assemblage of prints, worldwide, by American artist Rockwell Kent. A prolific artist and writer, Kent was also a renowned sailor and adventurer. He pictured the austere landscapes of Alaska and Greenland. He also illustrated editions of Candide, The Canterbury Tales, the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, and Moby Dick. The exhibition includes seven of Kent’s 1931 illustrations for a reprint of the Old English epic poem Beowulf.
Finally, the museum will offer visitors an opportunity to view “THE OPEN MUSEUM” video scrapbook of Mitchell Art Museum’s five-week raucous reopening, during which 1,500 people drew or wrote on the gallery walls. The video includes a stop-motion animation of how the immersive community mural came to be, as well as slides taken by participants along the way.
For more information on exhibits and programming, visit sjc.edu/mitchell or follow @sjcmitchell on Facebook and Instagram.