“Your life is a book and every day is a page,” said the Black artist Elijah Pierce in 1974, “you’re writing your fate as you go along.” Pierce was born in 1892, in Baldwyn, Mississippi, to a father who had once been a slave. He began woodcarving as a boy, left his family’s farm to become a barber, and made his way to Ohio. When he wasn’t cutting hair he worked on carvings that depict autobiographical scenes, political events, and religious parables. Executed with invention, colorfully painted, Pierce’s work gained recognition within his community but never found a broad audience. The Barnes Foundation means to change all that. Its exhibition showcases more than 100 works of art that date from 1923 to 1979. —E.C.
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