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Elizabeth Catlett. Black Unity, 1968. Cedar. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2014.11. © 2024 Mora-Catlett Family / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. (Photo: Edward C. Robison III)

Elizabeth Catlett: A Black Revolutionary Artist and All That It Implies

September 13, 2024–January 19, 2025

Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art and Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 4th Floor

A defining Black woman artist of the twentieth century, Elizabeth Catlett (1915–2012) has not received the mainstream art-world attention afforded many of her peers. The Brooklyn Museum, in partnership with the National Gallery of Art, closes this gap with Elizabeth Catlett: A Black Revolutionary Artist and All That It Implies, an exhibition of over 150 works that gives this revolutionary artist and radical activist her due.

A deft sculptor and printmaker, devout feminist, and lifelong social justice advocate, Catlett was uniquely committed to both her creative process and political convictions. Growing up during the Great Depression, she witnessed class inequality, racial violence, and U.S. imperialism firsthand, all while pursuing an artistic education grounded in the tenets of modernism. Catlett would protest injustices for nearly a century, via both soaring artworks and on-the-ground activism. 

Born in Washington, DC, Catlett settled permanently in Mexico in 1946 and for the rest of her life she worked to amplify the experiences of Black and Mexican women. Inspired by sources ranging from African sculpture to works by Barbara Hepworth and Käthe Kollwitz, Catlett never lost sight of the Black liberation struggle in the United States. Characterized by bold lines and voluptuous forms, her powerful work continues to speak directly to all those united in the fight against poverty, racism, and imperialism. 

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Accompanying publication
The traveling retrospective will be accompanied by a book of the same title, edited by Dalila Scruggs and distributed by the University of Chicago Press. The 304-page publication offers a revelatory look at Catlett and her nearly century-long life, highlighting overlooked works alongside iconic masterpieces. Essays address topics including Catlett’s early development as an artist-activist, the impact of political exile on her work, and the diverse influences that shaped her practice. 

Elizabeth Catlett: A Black Revolutionary Artist and All That It Implies is organized by Dalila Scruggs, Augusta Savage Curator of African American Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum; Catherine Morris, Sackler Senior Curator, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum; and Mary Lee Corlett, Associate Curator of Modern Prints and Drawings (retired), National Gallery of Art; with Rashieda Witter, Curatorial Assistant, National Gallery of Art, and Carla Forbes, Curatorial Assistant, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum. The exhibition is organized by the Brooklyn Museum and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago.

Leadership support is provided by

Generous support is provided by The Maurer Family Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and by

Additional support is provided by the Deborah Buck Foundation.