During the preview Thursday Bearden scholar Robert G. O’Meally, a professor of English literature at Columbia University, said the show at the High was one of the most comprehensive in many years.
Some 33 of Bearden’s works are on display, along with images by other artists and photographers and clips from a documentary film on the New York artist’s life.
Bearden’s works of photomontage-plus-paint show scenes from his memories of his years in rural North Carolina, in Pittsburgh and in New York City.
“It’s about the layering of memory, about looking back over your life as a young person, as an adult and the years in between,” said Stephanie Heydt, the High’s curator of American art.
The works, most of them created from paint and scraps of newspaper and magazine photographs, are part of a group of 47 works first displayed in 1978 and 1981 in two shows called “Profile,” parts one and two. Heydt and O’Meally spent four years hunting for the paintings, combing through private collections and auction and gallery records. They were able to locate 33.
One of the most impressive works in the group is the large-scale "Artist with Painting & Model," one of Bearden's few self-portraits.
It shows the artist in his studio, a model in the foreground, the artist’s arm draped proudly over one of his paintings. The piece comes from the High’s own collection. Its purchase, in 2014, spurred Heydt and O’Meally to begin seeking the other works from the “Profile” shows.
Bearden was friends with many jazz musicians and wrote songs for Billie Holiday and Dizzy Gillespie. Among the special events scheduled at the High to celebrate the exhibit is a Dec. 15 musical lecture by O’Meally and musician and educator Dwight Andrews, exploring how Bearden inspired other creators in the visual and performing arts.
"Something Over Something Else: Romare Bearden's Profile Series," $14.50. High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-733-4444, www.high.org.