This beautifully organized and informative exhibition plays with the traditional use of the word popular to unite artists who lived on the margins of mainstream life. Working between the 1930s and the 1970s, and hailing from the Americas and the Carribean, these painters shared the experience of diaspora. Some were excluded from the art establishment because they were self-taught, while others, despite their training, were overlooked due to their backgrounds. They are popular in the sense that they made use of common visual sources. Genre paintings depict marketplaces. Religious imagery abounds. And traditional Western art techniques appear in new contexts. The curators have thus reclaimed the term to reject pejorative descriptors like “primitive” and “naive,” which are often applied to these painters and their work. Featuring stunningly reproduced images accompanied by informative text, the exhibition points up major themes—labor, festivals, architecture, and home life—and highlights four artists whose works embody diasporan culture and its attendant aesthetic influences. —C.J.F.
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