Romare Bearden: Odysseus Leaves Circe (1978)
Romare Bearden: Odysseus Leaves Circe (1978), watercolor and graphite on paper. Courtesy Jerald Melberg Gallery, Charlotte, NC.

Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey, a dazzling exhibition of collages and other works by one of the most powerful and original artists of the 20th century, ran at the Michael C. Carlos Museum from December 14 to March 9. Rich in symbolism and allegorical content, Bearden’s Odyssey series is a startling retelling of Homer’s ancient story of Odysseus, the “man of  many ways” who faces temptations and battles adversaries to make his way back home to Ithaca. Bearden’s decision to make all of his Homeric figures black—gods, mortals, heroes, and villains—created an artistic bridge between classical mythology and African American culture while conveying a sense of the human condition across history. The exhibition at Emory was made possible through generous support from the Massey Charitable Trust, The Coca-Cola Company, and Anthony and Celeste Meier.