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Richard Hunt Examines A Mask At Art & Soul

Source: Ann E. Zelle / Getty

Prolific sculptor Richard Hunt has used his artistry to celebrate the enduring legacies of influential Black trailblazers. The Getty Research Institute has acquired the Chicago native’s poignant archive.

Hunt’s work intertwines historic recollection and modern-day references that symbolize the diversity of experiences within the African diaspora. His pieces explore the concepts of tradition, identity, heritage, and mythology. He launched his art career in 1950. Upon graduating from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, he was awarded several prestigious prizes and traveled the world to experience the power of art across the globe.

Throughout his career, he’s created monuments for Black pioneers, including Martin Luther King Jr., Ida B. Wells, and Mary McLeod Bethune. He has over 160 public sculpture commissions throughout the United States and worldwide. Hunt’s work has been featured in prominent art institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and other spaces. He’s also served as a visiting professor at schools that include Howard University, Harvard, and Yale.

His archive is an artistic time capsule, encompassing sketchbooks, photographs, notebooks, lithographs, and other relics that provide a lens into Hunt’s creative process.

“Richard Hunt is one of the foremost American artists of the mid-to-late-20th century,” LeRonn Brooks, who serves as Associate Curator for Modern and Contemporary Collections at the Getty Research Institute, said in a statement. “In addition to the extensive archival material about Hunt’s over 60-year career, a great deal of this archive consists of material highlighting his significance as a public figure and his eminent role in the African American community, as well as correspondence with government leaders, clients, other prominent artists, and African American leaders of his time including John H. Johnson of the Johnson Publishing Company. The Richard Hunt archive represents a significant and substantial addition to the emerging collections related to the African American Art History Initiative (AAAHI) and the study of African American art during the 20th century.”

Hunt says he’s excited the Getty Research Institute will harbor his archive. “The entirety of my papers, photographs, letters, and sketches trace the arc of my career and my contribution to art history,” the 87-year-old shared. “I hope that my archive will serve not only as a remembrance but an inspiration to others.”

News about the acquisition comes months after the Getty Research Institute and the National Museum of African American History and Culture acquired images from the Ebony and Jet magazine archives.

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