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The Art of Friendship

Greg Schaber

Russell Goings loves to share the art and memory of his friend, renowned American artist Romare Bearden. So in the fall, Goings, a 1959 graduate, brought “The Unseen Romare Bearden,” an exhibit of 94 works in a variety of media, to the University art gallery in the A.B. Cohen Center.

The exhibit was unique in that it featured pieces never before shown together, including the 22-collage “Odysseus Suite” and the “Alvin Aily Dancers” drawings. Bearden’s work incorporates a rich montage of influences from American, African, Asian and European art and culture, capturing themes drawn largely from the artist’s African-American heritage.

Probably best known for his collage work, Bearden was fluent in a variety of media, as attested by the wide range of drawings, paintings, prints and works in marker included in the exhibit.

Goings and Bearden met in the 1970s in New York. Goings was a pro-football-player-turned-entrepreneur who helped break Wall Street’s color barrier, and Bearden an artist who spent most of his life as a social worker. But they forged a bond that lasted until Bearden’s death in 1988. In the process, Goings and his wife, Evelyn Boulware, came to hold the largest single collection of Bearden works.

“He was my mentor,” Goings says. With “The Unseen Romare Bearden,” Goings both honored a friend and helped perpetuate a mentor’s powerful legacy.

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