Souls Grown Diaspora

curated by Sam Gordon

Frederick Weston, Body Map (Arms), 2017
  • Artists:
    Alvin Baltrop
    Raynes Birkbeck
    Stephanie Crawford
    Curtis Cuffie
    Otis Houston Jr.
    Dapper Bruce Lafitte
    Reverend Joyce McDonald
    Sara Penn
    Frederick Weston
    Wesley Willis
Souls Grown Diaspora is an exhibition that explores a generation of leading contemporary visionary African-American artists from the wider United States, and situates their work into an art-historical lineage shaped by the Great Migration. The exhibition traces the migration: the movement spanning 1916 to 1970 in which six million African-Americans left the rural South for urban centers such as New York, Chicago, Detroit, and Oakland. Souls Grown Diaspora follows a new wave of artists, mostly self-taught, whose works address a range of revelatory social and political subjects.

The show's title takes its inspiration from Atlanta's Souls Grown Deep Foundation, which has worked for decades to change the canon of art history to include a group of pioneering African-American artists from the South—among them Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, Mary T. Smith, Hawkins Bolden, and the women's collective known as the Gee's Bend Quilters (Arlonzia Pettway, Annie Mae Young and Mary Lee Bendolph)—as essential to the understanding of developments in the history of American art. The name "Souls Grown Deep" originates from the last line of Langston Hughes' 1921 poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers": "My soul has grown deep like the rivers."

A collection of research material will be included in vitrines and a series of performances and talks will accompany the exhibition during its run.

Sam Gordon is a New York-based artist and curator. In 2017 he and Jacob Robichaux founded Gordon Robichaux, a gallery and curatorial agency in New York City's Union Square. Recent curatorial projects include The Frieze Library: Volume One, Frieze, New York, 2019, and Contemporary Drag, NADA, New York 2017. Gordon's own painting, drawing, photography, and video work was regularly presented in numerous solo and group exhibitions at Feature Inc. from 1997 - 2013. His work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN), and the Tang Museum (Saratoga Springs, NY). In addition to his curatorial and artistic practice, Gordon has taught at the California Institute for the Arts, Rhode Island School of Design, and The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.


Souls Grown Diaspora, Installation view.

Sara Penn / Knobkerry, Installation view.

Sara Penn / Knobkerry, Installation view.

Souls Grown Diaspora, Installation view.

Souls Grown Diaspora, Installation view.


Stephanie Crawford and Frederick Weston, Installation view.


Curtis Cuffie (foreground), Frederick Weston (back left), Reverend Joyce McDonald (back center), and Dapper Bruce Lafitte (back right), Installation view.

Souls Grown Diaspora, Installation view.


Souls Grown Diaspora, Installation view.


Reverend Joyce McDonald, Installation view.


Otis Houston Jr., Police Told a Lie, 2018, Mixed media, Dimensions variable.

Curtis Cuffie, Installation view.


Wesley Willis (center),and Curtis Cuffie (left and right), Installation view.

Left to right: Wesley Willis, Curtis Cuffie, and Otis Houston, Jr, Installation view.

Vitrines showing ephemera for Wesley Willis and Curtis Cuffie, Installation view.


Sara Penn, Knobkerry, Date unknown; Frederick Weston, Souls Grown Diaspora, 2019, Graphic, Dimensions variable

Alvin Baltrop, Untitled (Hydrant), Date unknown, Digital c-print, 4 x 5.8 in

Otis Houston Jr. with Ejlat Feuer, Untitled (Portrait), c. 2004, C-print, Dimensions variable

Raynes Birkbeck, Energy Field, Lester, 2010, Acrylic and mixed media on paper, 15 x 18 in

Curtis Cuffie, Two Faced Woman, Date unknown, Mixed media, found objects (detail)

Reverend Joyce McDonald, Precious As A Pearl (after shingles), 2009, Air dry clay, wood, Mod Podge, costume pearls, mother?s broken pearl necklace, 12 x 9.75 x 1 in

Stephanie Crawford, Self-Portrait with Bouquet, 2015, Charcoal on newsprint, 18 x 24 in (detail)

apexart’s program supporters past and present include the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, the Buhl Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Spencer Brownstone, the Kenneth A. Cowin Foundation, Epstein Teicher Philanthropies, The Greenwich Collection Ltd., William Talbott Hillman Foundation/Affirmation Arts Fund, the Fifth Floor Foundation, the Consulate General of Israel in New York, The Puffin Foundation, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and administered by LMCC, funds from NYSCA Electronic Media/Film in Partnership with Wave Farm: Media Arts Assistance Fund, with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, as well as the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.