A landmark exhibition co-organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art will focus on the work of Black potters in the 19th-century American South. The exhibition presents approximately 60 ceramic objects from Old Edgefield District, South Carolina, a center of stoneware production in the decades before the Civil War, together with contemporary responses.
“Hear Me Now” tells a story about art and enslavement—and about the joy, struggle, creative ambition, and lived experience of African Americans in the decades before the Civil War. The exhibition features many objects never before seen outside of the South, bringing together monumental storage jars by the enslaved and literate potter and poet Dave, later recorded as David Drake (about 1800–about 1870), with rare examples of the region’s utilitarian wares and powerful face vessels by unrecorded makers.
The MFA Boston exhibition links past to present, in part by including the work of leading contemporary Black artists who have responded to or whose practice resonates with the Edgefield story. Established figures like Theaster Gates and Simone Leigh, as well as younger, emerging artists like Adebunmi Gbadebo, Woody De Othello, and Robert Pruitt, have contributed to the show. These artists respond to the legacy of the Edgefield potters and consider the resonance of this history for audiences today.
Americana supported the exhibition with a grant to MFA Boston in May 2022. The exhibition will be accompanied by a scholarly publication and informed by new scientific research. The exhibition opened at the Met in September 2022 and opened at MFA Boston on March 4, 2023. It will additionally travel to the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. More information is available on the MFA Boston website: https://www.mfa.org/exhibition/hear-me-now-the-black-potters-of-old-edgefield-south-carolina.