The Anacostia Community Museum will be closed from January 8, 2024-March 22, 2024. We will reopen on Saturday, March 23, 2024 with our next exhibition, A Bold and Beautiful Vision: A Century of Black Arts Education in Washington, DC,1900-2000. We hope you will join us! 


Object Details

Ralph Arnold
oil and mixed media on canvas
Frame: 29 5/8 × 23 3/8 × 2 1/16 in. (75.3 × 59.3 × 5.2 cm)
Inspired by Romare Bearden and well-known for collages in his own right, Ralph Arnold (1928-2006) embeds printed paper within oil and acrylic paint to form the odalisque of the artwork’s title. An odalisque is an enslaved woman in a harem, typically exoticized and depicted reclining in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Orientalist paintings. Arnold, an African American artist, revises the colonialist construct through an abstract, assertive portrayal rather than a figurative, passive one. Bold asymmetrical blocks of red, black, and orange organized around a white circle surround a vertical, not horizonal, figure in the painting’s upper center. An eye-like oval in black and bright blue encompasses the circle against a background textured with overlapping white circles. Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, Arnold moved to Chicago as a high school student and earned degrees from Roosevelt University and the Art Institute of Chicago. He absorbed New York City’s art scene in the 1960s during frequent visits with his partner, artist Bill Frederick. Arnold worked in a variety of media while chairing the art department at Chicago’s Loyola University and serving on the Illinois Council for the Arts for thirty years.
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