Living in a city with so many galleries, it’s impossible to see them all. But when we heard of an abstract art exhibit that included works by Norman Lewis, Sam Gilliam, Barbara Bullock, Geraldine McCullough and Charles Alston–all at the same time–we couldn’t resist and headed north to one of the oldest galleries specializing in African-American Art in the historic Sugar Hill section of Harlem.
The Essie Green Galleries, owned by Sherman Edmiston, originated in Park Slope in 1979, born from the close personal relationship Sherman and his wife Essie Green had with many of the artists that grace the gallery walls today including Romare Bearden, Lois Mailou Jones and Jacob Lawrence. They moved the gallery to a brownstone in Harlem in 1989, continuing to represent and exhibit the Black Masters.
Essie Green Edmiston passed away in 2000 but what bears her name has blossomed into a premier gallery specializing in the works of not only Romare Bearden, but other Black Masters, as well as a contributor and exhibitor to many institutions including The Smithsonian, The High Museum, The Schomburg and the Studio Museum in Harlem. Much of the work depicts life in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. The last two decades of Bearden’s life in the Caribbean are well represented in his later work. All of this work shows the rich history of the African American culture.
Sherman Edmiston, now remarried to artist Bette Byer, regularly exhibit their vast collection of Bearden’s and other Masters in revolving shows every few months. If you find yourself quite taken with a specific piece, Sherman, Bette or one of their knowledgable staff are there to give you the stories behind the work and an inside story on the artist.
Near the reception area, you will see what appears to be a double-door closet. But when opened, you will be treated to large wire panels that open like a book with exquisite paintings on each ‘page’ after page after page. A gallery inside a gallery.
The Gallery is easy to reach by subway lines A, B & C to 145th Street. Located at 419A Convent Avenue, you enter on the 148th Street garden level and is open from Tuesday through Saturday. 10am to 6pm. We’re keeping our eyes open for information on their up and coming December show.
Contact the author at AFineLyne