Receipt of Delivery: BlackMan’s Art Gallery

February 8, 2013  |  By

Receipt of Delivery is a weekly series featuring Bay Area exhibition mailers selected from the SFMOMA Research Library’s collection of artists’ ephemera.


“Owner of the gallery and sponsor of the happening is W.O. Thomas Jr., ex-cable car gripman and self-taught painter and sculptor. He spent two years preparing the event, having completely redecorated the ground floor level of a Victorian house in the heart of the ghetto [...] Although the showing at the BlackMan’s Art Gallery represents but a small fraction of black talent in the area, its impact more than makes up for its size. One cannot view this art and walk away untouched.” —“The Black Man’s Gallery,” Urban West, November/December 1967, vol 1, no. 2

1971 4th anniversary catalogue back cover, 8 1/2 in. x 5 1/2 in. (21.59 cm x 13.97 cm)

_The Best of Black_, 1968, 1st anniversary group show tri-fold brochure [click to enlarge], 8 1/2 in. x 11 in. (21.59 cm x 27.94 cm). Artists: Richard Allen, Aum (Don Patton), Francis Anastasis, Charles Bible, Courtney Bowie, John Britton, Fred Brown, Montford Cardwell, Bernard Catchings, Dewey Crumpler, O.L. Daniels, Joseph Geran, Robert Henry Graham, Kwasi Jayourba, Marie Johnson, Nat Knighton, E. E. Mays, Melvin Pierre, William Morris Jr., Ben Mundine, Roho, Michael S. Thomas, and Royce Vaughn.

_The Third of Black_ , 1970 anniversary catalogue [click to enlarge], 8 1/2 in. x 11 in. (21.59 cm x 27.94 cm)

1973 program notes  for exhibition in conjunction with _Les Ballet Africains_, Masonic Auditorium [click to enlarge], 8 1/2 in. x 11 in. (21.59 cm x 27.94 cm) ; Members pictured: John Benson, John Britton, Monjett Graham, Robert Henry Graham, Leon Kennedy, William Maysfield, Damballah Dolphus Smith Jr., Juba Solo, and Deborah Wilkins.

Nathaniel Sirles (1971 catalogue detail), 8 1/2 in. x 5 1/2 in. (21.59 cm x 13.97 cm); In _Jet_ , May 6, 1971: “Polytechnic High School’s 15-year-old  sculptor Nathaniel Sirles insists that he is not going to go to a university or art school because that would take away all his creative freedom. He had a one-man show _Spirits of Blackness_ on display at the  city’s Black Man’s Art Gallery.”

_The Spirit of Byrd; one-man show of inks_ , n.d. (brochure detail)

Joseph Geran, Jr. (1971 catalogue detail), 8 1/2 in. x 5 1/2 in. (21.59 cm x 13.97 cm)

“BlackMan’s Art Gallery was founded and directed for the seven years of its existence (1967–1974) by Juba Solo (William O. Thomas, Jr.) and his wife, Robin R. Thomas. The gallery was initially located at 619 Haight Street for the years 1967–71. It was relocated to a Victorian house, 325 Haight Street, in 1971 and remained there until closing in 1974.

BlackMan’s Art Gallery began as an outlet for expression of the Black inner experience. The gallery at the time it opened was the only one in the country owned privately by a black man and devoted exclusively to Black creativity and culture. The gallery exhibited works by artists that were “expressions of life experiences.” In part, the gallery was a response to white, European-oriented galleries and museums in the city. It strove to define the direction of Black art as distinctly different from the European style. Moreover, the gallery sought to promote racial awareness and pride. The gallery’s statement: This White Racist Country has denied and is still denying the Black Image. The opening of this Gallery means—We are not going to be…We Are.

—excerpt from signed statement by Richard T. Campbell, August 12, 1975, SFMOMA Research Library and Archives

3 Comments

  1. Patrick Says:

    “byrd” is a badass piece of writing. you can feel the compelling frustration of wasted life coming out of that writing. “Why don’t you break your set (television)” WHY WHY WHY? i feel it.

    “We Are” is another badass piece of writing. If EVERYONE could realize that and stop setting themselves apart, what a world.

  2. karaqsmith Says:

    I appreciate the historical perspective this post provides amidst the very relevant ongoing national response and debate amongst cultural producers to Ken Johnson’s New York Times review of Now Dig This!: Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980. More here: http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-opinion/news/2013-01-16/ken-johnson-panel/

  3. T Says:

    Recent videos of Leon Kennedy who was one of the BlackMan’s Art Gallery members:
    http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=UUiVPOjEDWBicXr9tJzi_MlQ

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