Catlett’s ouevre is canonical yet remains a discovery for many. On view in the exhibition, the artist’s signature figurative works in various mediums, including wood-block prints, wood carvings, and bronze sculptures, depict experiences of Black Americans and Indigenous Mexican people in the 20th century with clarity and precision. At the same time, the works celebrate womanhood and the strength of women of color in public roles such as maker, laborer, educator, and civil rights activist, as well as in the domestic space and familial roles of nurturer, mother, daughter, sister, and confidant. In these portrayals, Catlett reclaims the representation of her subjects in visual culture and fearlessly speaks truth to power. The conceptual framework of the presentation builds on previous scholarship in which the complexities of Catlett’s identity have unfolded and illuminates how her work meditates on these themes as realms of political resistance.
Elizabeth Catlett in collaboration with David Mora Catlett
About the artist
The descendent of enslaved people from North Carolina, Elizabeth Catlett (b. 1915, Washington, D.C.; d. 2012, Cuernavaca, Mexico) is considered one of the most important artists of the past century. Across her 60-year career, Catlett initiated a dialogue between the Black Arts movement in the U.S., Mexico’s pre-Hispanic sculptural language, and Mexican Muralism and Social Realism, producing politically charged and aesthetically compelling works that celebrate the dignity of women of color and ideals of human rights.