Four dark-skinned men are hanging from four different trees with flames burning beneath them.
This is not a picture from the problematic Middle East. Nor is it picture from American history.
However, it is an image in the Robert E. Holmes Collection: “Affirming a Legacy” currently on display at the NCCU Art Museum from February 6 through March 27.
The depiction of the four men hanging from trees with flames is a piece by Jose Clemente Orozco, a Mexican muralist. The picture is a called “Hanged Men.”
Orozco greatly emphasizes human figures by using strong lines, dramatic angles, and brownish colors.
Orozco is best known for expressing his reaction to the struggles of the common man through his paintings.
The Robert E. Holmes Collection is an exhibit that is on display for the first time in Durham. There are 40 paintings out of 400 works of art being shown at NCCU.
The Holmes collection is not only comprised of African-American artists, but also includes the works of Mexican artists.
Works by the artists depict the common theme of oppression.
Included in the display is the well-known painting by Beauford Delaney, “Self-Portrait as a Crouching Man.”
The self-portrait is a large scale painting of Delaney, circa 1970 with harsh brushstrokes and off-beat color pairings.
Delaney was called a “genius” during his time as an artist for his extensive selection of color and ability to capture raw images of humanity.
He has been praised for having the ability to show great human strength in some of his paintings. In some of his other paintings, Delaney showed human frailty.
During his career, critics have said that Delaney could paint as though he was looking through someone else’s eyes.
The Holmes exhibit supports the NCCU purpose of being a Liberal Arts Institution which informs the community about oppression and about overcoming oppression.
Robert E. Holmes started his collection while working as an associate counsel at Motown Records from 1971-1977.
While working at Motown Records, Holmes structured record deals for Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder.
In addition to working at Motown, he worked as vice president of business affairs and publishing for Columbia Pictures and Television.
He also organized major soundtrack deals for films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, La Bamba, Philadelphia, and Men in Black. Holmes also oversaw the large music publishing interests of Columbia Pictures and Television throughout the world.