First major show from the Paul Jones collection: Photos of African-American performers on display at UD

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“Original Acts: Photographs of African-American Performers in the Paul R. Jones Collection” will open Feb. 5 and be on display through March 28 at the University Gallery on the University of Delaware campus in Newark.

The exhibition will be the first major showing of works from the collection since it was donated to the University of Delaware by Paul R. Jones, an Atlanta entrepreneur and one of the nation’s leading private collectors of works by African-American artists, last February.

After closing its University of Delaware run, the show will move to Spelman College in Atlanta, with which UD has developed a working relationship in conjunction with the collection.

“Original Acts” presents the work of 12 African-American photographers who have focused on African-American performers exclusively, or as an integral part of their careers.

Representing several geographic regions in terms of origin and training, their image making techniques range from the formal studio style of preeminent photographers Prentice Herman (P.H.) Polk and James Van Der Zee, to the stage-derived and more spontaneous approaches of California-based photographers William Crite and John H. Cochran Jr., originally from Savannah, Ga.

Bert Andrews captured the power, passion and promise of African-American theater for more than 35 years. Though the Chicago native was highly sought after and respected as a photographer throughout New York's theatre circuit, he was especially noted for his “live” images of the award-winning Negro Ensemble Company.

Later, he became the sole documentarian of the productions of Woodie King Jr.'s New Federal Theatre. His photographs have appeared in Time, Life, Newsweek, The New York Times and books on American theatre.

New Jersey native Jim Alexander has photographed leading jazz musicians for the past 30 years. Having worked as a photographer for Yale and Clark Atlanta Universities, he reached a milestone with the publication of the acclaimed photo-essay “Duke and Other Legends,” dedicated to the musical genius of Duke Ellington. His work also includes portraits and candid stage shots of such international stars as Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr., Eubie Blake and jazz vocalist Betty Carter.

Motion picture still photographer and freelancer Adger W. Cowans creates improvisational pieces that pay homage to the life and work of Ellington as well. A former Navy photographer and past assistant to Gordon Parks in the 1960s, Cowans captures poetic motions in water as a personal way of equating to the unmistakable, yet elusive, nature that defines the legendary bandleader.

Susan J. Ross is self-defined as a “photo-griot.” As official photographer for the city of Atlanta, she has documented national and international events for 25 years, including the Centennial Olympic Games, King Week celebrations and Nelson Mandela's trips to the city. But, it has been her photographs of musicians and other stage acts, from the famous to the unknown, that continue to bring her the greatest recognition.

William Anderson emphasizes the resourcefulness and unpretentiousness of solo street performers in a manner that approaches photojournalism. Gerald Straw, on the other hand, turns his camera to America’s urban streets in less obvious references to the interactive roles of audience and performer. A native New Yorker currently living in Atlanta and one of the founders of the “Black Photographers Annual,” Straw documents performance with the sensibility of a researcher, capturing data plastered on the walls of unoccupied buildings that read as public billboards advertising concerts and dance troupes.

The University Gallery is located on the second floor of historic Old College, on the corner of Main Street and North College Avenue in downtown Newark. The museum presents exhibitions and educational programs of regional and national importance and is a repository for art objects and cultural artifacts spanning the ancient period through the present.

Hours are 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and 1-5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. The museum is closed on Mondays and all University holidays.

The University Gallery is barrier free and those individuals requesting other disability accommodations are encouraged to call at least 10 days prior to the event. All museum events are free to the public.

For more information, call (302) 831-8242, fax (302) 831-8251, or TDD (302) 831-4563. Visit the University Gallery on line at [http://www.museums.udel.edu].

Contact: Neil Thomas, (302) 831-6408

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