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1973 - New Orleans Soul to Travel by Luba Glade


New Orleans Soul to Travel

By Luba Glade

                                      The States-Item / New Orleans / Saturday, September 1, 1973

            Ready or not, the New York art museum world is abouot to get a sizeable infusion of down-home Soul.

            Next month a formidable trio of Louisiana Black primitive artists - Clementine Hunter, Sister Gertrude Morgan, and Bruce Brice - will be sparking things up at the Museum of Modern Folk Art with a large show covering the entire range of their work.

            For those of you planning to be in New York between September 17-November 4, the museum is just down the block from the Museum of Modern Art on 54th Street and keeps the usual museum hours.

            Those of us less fortunate still will have the opportunity to see a mini-version of the show in the Louisiana Gallery of the New Orleans Museum of Art which will open a few days later.

            Clementine Hunter, the lively octogenarian of Melrose Plantation, has been painting for more than a quarter of a century, recording the familiar aspects of plantation life.   First as a field hand picking cotton and later as a kitchen domestic, Clementine Hunterís whole world has been bounded by the plantation and the life she depicts is one of gaiety and gentle charm. 

            Some 50 or 60 of her works will be in the New York show.  In addition to the familiar small paintings, the show also will include a four-by-eight foot mural she did for Africa House on the Melrose Plantation, as well as selections from her sculpture, quilts and even several of her well-known nun dolls.  

            Sister Gertrude Morgan and Bruce Brice are both New Orleanians.  But there their similarity ends.  Not only are they at the opposite ends of the age spectrum but their subject matter treats different aspects of the black urban experience.

            Sister Gertrude in her all-white garb has been a familiar sight for years in some neighborhoods as she preached the gospel, accompanying her chanting by beating on an old tambourine.  Occasionally, on a Sunday afternoon, she appears at the Borenstein Gallery on Royal St. which has for years sold her paintings.  She frequently depicts herself as a bride with God as her bridegroom.  Her religious fantasies as well as how she goes about spreading the word can be painted on anything. Her creations can be painted on the styrofoam dishes used in meat markets, on an old lampshade, old window shade, paper hand fans and even toilet paper rolls painted both inside and out.  Some 50 or 60 of her paintings and objects will be included in the New York show.

            Because he is the youngest of three, it is left for Bruce Brice to mirror the current Black experience in New OrleansBrice is an exuberant young man who is well aware of the crime and dope problems around him.  He also is into the civil rights movement.

            But for the most part his paintings seem to reflect the more positive side of life in the New Orleans black community.  The jazz funerals, the Mardi Gras Indians and other folkways unique to the local Black group all find their way into his paintings, as do Black children at play and some of the simple pursuits enjoyed in everyday living.

            In the last few years, Brice has been painting murals on outdoor walls in addition to his easel paintings.  Thereís one in the Desire project, another at the Cabrini playground on Barracks Street in the French Quarter and a third at 1127 St. Philip St.  His New York show will include a carousel of color slides showing these major works in detail.  There will be about 20 easel paintings as well.

Photo caption: Louisiana Soul art is about to invade New York in a big way.  Two of the three area artists to be shown next month are Bruce Brice and Sister Gertrude Morgan, New Orleans.  Background is a large riverfront scene as envisioned by Brice.

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