Butler Displays Works by Al Bright, Other Black Artists

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Butler Institute of American Art is celebrating Black History Month with two solo exhibitions – including one by the late Al Bright – and a selection of works from its permanent collection.

“Al Bright: The First Federal Years” is on view through March 20.

“Dialogues With Reality: Paintings by P. Smallwood,” an exhibition of watercolor paintings by Philip Smallwood, will be on display through Feb. 27.

The Bright exhibit is a grouping of eight works by the Youngstown native who died in 2019 that were recently donated to the museum by Huntington National Bank. The paintings were commissioned by First Federal Savings and Loan of Youngstown in 1986, specifically for the its corporate headquarters in Boardman. According to an article in The Vindicator dated Jan. 12, 1986, Bright’s intention was “to capture the Valley” in this body of work “through use of color.” The largest of the eight works is a 62-inch by 122-inch painting referred to as Riverbank Steel Mills.

“Al Bright’s works were traditionally appealing on many levels,” said Lou Zona, curator and executive director of The Butler. “It is understandable that they would be chosen to create beautiful spaces within the architecture in which they are housed. Al Bright was a master painter. His devotion to his art
always shines through.”

A public exhibition reception will be held Sunday, Feb. 13, from 1 to 3 p.m. Admission is free.

The watercolor paintings in the Smallwood exhibition are built around the themes of Black American life. The Philadelphia artist is known for his signature series of watercolor paintings he calls Lifescapes. These paintings portray the subject within his or her natural environment, manipulated to evoke an emotional connection with the viewer.

Also on display throughout the museum are works by notable Black artists Sam Gilliam, Elizabeth Catlett, Horace Pippin, Jacob Lawrence and Robert Scott Duncanson.

Pictured: “Riverbanks, Steel Mills,” a painting by Al Bright, is among the late artist’s works on display at The Butler.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.