The 1971 Contemporary Black Artists in America exhibit mounted by the Whitney Museum at the height of the Black Arts Movement, a period when black political art was celebrated, generated opposition. Twenty-four artists withdrew from the exhibition because the Whitney, which refused to hire any black curators or co-curators and invited an assortment of artists whose only similarity was their race, had the effect of boxing black artists into a singular “marked” category as black artists. Art collector and supporter of civil rights activists John de Menil saw the resistance towards the exhibit and urged artist Peter Bradley to curate a modern art exhibit that didn’t simply tokenize black artists. Galvanized by his frustration with the Whitney Museum, Bradley curated The DeLuxe Show, which opened in Houston as the first racially integrated art exhibition in the US. Unlike Robert Doty, the white curator of the Whitney exhibit, who wanted to showcase the “Black experience,” Bradley defied the idea of “black shows and white shows” and promoted good black artists, affording them the same attention as good white artists. Beyond his curatorial work as a retort to the narrative that museums were pushing on black artists at the time, Bradley’s work as an artist also serves as a response. Working with a nonrepresentational style, as seen in his 1974 painting Linne II, Bradley refused to submit to the pressure for black artists to create figurative art that would contribute to the expression of Black struggle, insisting instead on pursuing abstract painting.
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Weng, Sherry, "Color and Abstraction: Peter Bradley’s Resistance Against “Black Art” Through Curation and Painting" (2022). Research Days Posters 2022. 133.