Double Vision at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia

By Cameron McPherson

“These are not the type of pieces you can just look at and walk away from,” explains Richard Woodward, a board member of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.

Woodward serves as co-curator of the museum’s latest Murry DePillars: Double Vision exhibition. The original exhibition organized by Richmond’s Black History Museum examines the late Murry DePillars’ role as artist and educator.

Across two rooms filled with 37 pieces, visitors can explore history and culture through DePillars’ artistry. His work serves as powerful political commentary, like the transformation of an empowered Aunt Jemima heroine that honors the political demonstrations of Tommie Smith and John Carlos during the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

“Mr. DePillars was a visionary celebrated for his contributions to both the art and educational worlds,” says museum director Tasha Chambers. “He was a dynamic and innovative artist, and his work gives people an opportunity to see how history and culture inform art.”

The exhibition’s title, Double Vision, is an ode to DePillars’ dual careers as artist and educator. DePillars moved to Richmond in 1971 to teach at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts. He served as the school’s dean from 1976-1995. His leadership helped VCU’s art school become one of the largest in the country.

DePillars’ briefcase filled with small paints, brushes and canvases sits at the beginning of the exhibition. He carried a briefcase to paint in airports and hotels when travels prevented him from creating in his own studio. Seven paintings from the Briefcase Series rest on the upstairs hallway’s walls.

A sea of colors and geometric shapes catch the eye in the gallery featuring DePillars’ quilt aesthetic. His membership and participation AfriCOBRA, a Chicago-based organization of African-American artists with a mission to explore and define the black visual aesthetic, inspired the bright colors in his heavily researched and layered work.

DePillars’ work has been shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Studio Museum of Harlem, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and the Mississippi Museum of Art. The current exhibition represents one of the first opportunities in more than a decade to see such a wide breadth of DePillars’ artwork in one place.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate an artist that’s done so much for Richmond,” says Woodward.

CategoriesArtists, General, Live, News

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