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The Arrival, 1960
Benny Andrews (1930-2006)

View Artist Bio
Oil and collage on canvas
51 x 95 1/2 inches
Signature Details: Benny Andrews Signed on verso" The Arrival"/1960/Benny/Andrews
Status: Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, South Carolina

Artist, teacher, activist, critic, and author Benny Andrews ascended from the humblest of Southern beginnings to the loftiest stages of American art. A native of rural Georgia, Andrews was one of ten children born to sharecropper parents. Though his proper schooling was necessarily sporadic, Andrews and his siblings were encouraged in their education and talents by their father, a folk artist, and mother, a writer. Upon his graduation from high school, Andrews attended college for two years before joining the military. Following his discharge from the Air Force in 1954, Andrews, who had never before received formal art instruction or been to a museum, enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago.

While in Chicago, Andrews created line drawings and paintings, drawing on his rich childhood memories as well as observations of city life. He also began working with collage, a movement gaining popularity at the time. These works, which often include found objects and common materials, reflect the “influences of abstraction, social realism, surrealism, and the American scene.” The collages, for which Andrews is best known, are often executed in series and explore themes of particular interest to the artist, including Christianity and the black experience in the United States.

Andrews received a B.F.A. from the Art Institute in 1956 and relocated to New York City, where he soon established a thriving career as a collage artist, painter, printmaker, and book illustrator. He simultaneously began a twenty-nine-year teaching career at Queens College. His work received both critical praise and commercial acceptance. Elected to the National Academy of Design in 1977, he was awarded premier fellowships and exhibited widely in this country and abroad. Today, his work is found in the collection of major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian Institution, and Modern Museum of Art. A passionate arts advocate, especially for the work of minority and female artists, Andrews served as Director of the Visual Arts of the National Endowment for the Arts from 1982 to 1984.

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This essay is copyrighted by Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc. and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission.

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