The LSU Museum of Art (LSU MOA) premieres the exhibition African American Masterworks from the Paul R. Jones Museum at The University of Alabama on Thursday, August 3, 2023. The show features sixty paintings, sculptures, photographs, and prints by prominent twentieth century Black artists including Sam Gilliam, Faith Ringgold, Jacob Lawrence, Howardena Pindell, Emma Amos, and Romare Bearden. A free public opening reception is scheduled for Thursday, August 3 at 6:00 p.m., featuring a performance of music by Nina Simone, presented by Chloé Marie.
The Paul R. Jones Collection was founded at The University of Alabama in 2008, with the donation of approximately 1,700 artworks from Paul Raymond Jones. He gifted the College of Arts and Sciences a portion of his vast collection with the intention of preserving the legacy of African American artists, sparking the interest of future collectors, and elevating the position of Black artists in the mainstream art world. Jones’s estate contributed an additional three hundred works to the collection in 2013, bringing the total gift to two thousand pieces representing a variety of media by over six hundred artists. In 2001, Jones also gave the University of Delaware one thousand artworks, a portion of which are on permanent display.
Paul Raymond Jones came from humble beginnings. Born in 1928 in the Muscoda Mining Camp of the Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company (T.C.I.) of the U.S. Steel Corporation in Bessemer, Alabama, his parents instilled in him an understanding of the value and importance of education. He completed a bachelor’s degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C., with the intention of attending the School of Law at The University of Alabama in 1949. However, his aspirations were stifled, as African Americans were prohibited from attending the University until the federal courts ordered desegregation in 1963. Jones instead earned a master’s degree in urban studies from Governor’s State College in Illinois in 1974, and worked with the federal government for fifteen years.
Motivated by the lack of Black representation in American museums, Jones began collecting art in the 1960s, initially concentrating on twentieth century printmaking. His focus evolved throughout the years, with him amassing one of the largest private holdings of African American art in the country. Jones was deeply committed to art in general, believing it to be a powerful tool that could build resilient communities, strengthen individuals, and encourage positive communication. The founding of the Paul R. Jones Museum at The University of Alabama reinforced his vision that Black artists are included in the overall history of American art, and ensured that their artwork is recognized by and accessible to future generations.
Jones received numerous awards and recognitions, including the first Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change Outstanding Community Service Award, the James Van Der Zee Award for Lifetime Achievements in the Arts, and an honorary Doctorate of Laws from The University of Alabama, the same University that had once denied his entry based on his race. He passed in 2010.
The exhibition will be on view at the LSU Museum of Art from August 3–December 3, 2023.
Sunday, December 3, 2023
Shaw Center for the Arts, LSU Museum of Art, 5th floor
100 Lafayette St, Baton Rouge, LA 70801