Don’t miss “Robert Colescott - The Cairo Years” exhibition at Tahrir Cultural Centre

Nagwa El-Ashri , Tuesday 16 Mar 2021

Robert Colescott
Robert Colescott

At Tahrir Cultural Centre, the “Robert Colescott - The Cairo Years” exhibition showcases four paintings made by American modernist Robert H. Colescott (1925-2009) during the two years he spent in Cairo as a visiting professor of art at the AUC. He was also the first African-American professor to curate an art exhibition, at a university gallery. 

Organised by the AUC Visual Arts Programme, Department of the Arts, the exhibition is curated by Terri Ginsberg, Duncan MacDonald, and Matthew Weseley. The AUC’s Black History Month 2021 celebrates a selection of his Cairo paintings along with compelling archival documents, images, and records surrounding his work. 

Colescott, who studied with Frenand Leger in Paris, is known for satirical images of crowds that convey his exuberant, comic or bitter reflections on being African-American. His work is in many major public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Fine Art, Boston. 

Like many artists of his generation, Colescott maintained parallel careers as a committed and influential educator and painter. He moved to the Pacific Northwest after graduation from UC Berkeley and began teaching at Portland State University. In 1964 he took a sabbatical with a study grant from the American Research Centre in Cairo, Egypt. He returned to Portland for a year but went back to Egypt as a visiting professor at the American University in Cairo in 1966-1967.

Colescott’s sojourns in Egypt, and his encounter with Egyptian art and culture and the continent of Africa, were life-changing experiences. The impact on the trajectory of the rest of his artistic career, in terms of both its formal qualities and subject matter, was first manifest in the series of paintings “The Valley of the Queens”, inspired by his visit to Thebes. 

The exhibition continues until 31 March.  


*A version of this article appears in print in the 18 March, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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