Skip to content

David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History

February 25–May 15, 2022

Western & Southern Gallery (Gallery 233)

Ticketed. Free for Members. Download Press Release (PDF).

Friends of American Art. Friends of African American Art.


David Driskell (1931–2020) was one of the most revered American artists of his generation, long recognized for his vibrant and versatile work as a painter and printmaker. His art combines keen observations of America with the imagery and aesthetic innovations of the African diaspora.

Driskell found stimulation for his artistic exploration in his activities as an influential curator, educator, and scholar, who tirelessly asserted the importance of Black artists to the history of American art. Although his work regularly appeared in galleries and museums during his lifetime, in both solo and group exhibitions, his paintings and works on paper are united in this exhibition for the first time.

The exhibition is the first major presentation of Driskell’s work since his death in April 2020 at the age of 88. Bringing together 58 highlights of his distinguished career, it surveys the artist’s painterly practice from the 1950s forward. The exhibition explores his thematic concerns, from the solace of nature to the tumult of the 1960s and his search for identity through African images and forms. Driskell also paid tribute to admired colleagues in pieces dedicated to Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden. The array of media represented, from oil painting to encaustic and collage to woodcut, reveal Driskell’s enchantment with experimentation and vitality in the studio.

Admission to David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History includes entry to the concurrent special exhibition Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop.

To honor and continue the work of painter David Driskell and the Kamoinge Workshop photographers, the museum has partnered with ArtWorks, Cincy Nice, OhioDance, the Robert O’Neal Multicultural Art Center, and WordPlay Cincy to create the Black Futures Series. This multifaceted series of happenings and conversations engages local, established and aspiring Black visual and performing artists in building mentor networks, creating and occupying creative platforms within and beyond arts institutions, sharing histories, and nurturing artistic growth and excellence.

Visit the Black Futures Series virtual hub to learn about what’s happening and how you can participate.


The Black Futures Series is supported by GBBN, LPK, and the Arts Midwest GIG Fund, a program of Arts Midwest that is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional contributions from Ohio Arts Council.

Additional support has been provided by Ohio Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the federal ARP Act of 2021.

If you need accessibility accommodations for this program or event, please email [email protected]. Please contact us at least two weeks in advance to ensure accommodations can be made.


Joint Members Opening

Thursday, February 24, 2022, 5–7 p.m., Great Hall, Western and Southern Galleries

Celebrate the concurrent opening of Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop and David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History with light bites, a cash bar, and self-guided exhibition previews.


Black Future Series: Artist Talk by Countess V. Winfrey and Artist Pathways panel conversation

March 16, 2022, virtual. View the recordings here.

Organized in partnership with OhioDance. Choreographer Countess V. Winfrey shares insight into her process creatingHomage: What was, Is, To Come, the winning proposal for the Black Futures Series capstone performance commission. Arts leaders April Berry, Chiquita Mullins Lee, Rodney Veal, and Tamara Williams engage in conversation about writing successful project proposals.


Moving Images

Black Art: In the Absence of Light
Thursday, March 17, 2022, 7–10 p.m. and view on demand here.

Program includes the premiere of a new short video featuring Kamoinge Workshop photographer Shawn Walker, feature film Black Art: In the Absence of Light (dir. Sam Pollard, 2021), and a live stream conversation with art historian and Consulting Director of Strategic Planning for Kamoinge, Inc., Halima Taha.


Fine Art Flow

Thursday, March 31, 2022, 6–7:30 p.m.

Guests must bring their own yoga mats. Water bottles are not allowed in the galleries.

$7 members, $15 non-members. Reservations Required. Capacity is limited.

Purchase Tickets

Join Erin DeSantis, museum docent and yoga instructor, for a gallery chat in special exhibitions, David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History and Working Together: The photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop. After the chat, we'll enjoy a 60-minute yoga flow in gallery 229. This class is accessible to participants of all levels and abilities, and various modifications will be offered.


Black Futures Series Keynote

A Conversation on Black Arts Collectives—Past, Present, Future

Thursday, April 14, 2022, 7–8 p.m., followed by public reception. View the recording here.

Free, limited seating, registration not required.

Toilynn O’Neal, Founding Director of the Robert O’Neal Multicultural Arts Center, hosts a discussion about the significance and importance of Black Art Collectives and movements, with a distinguished panel of Black artists including artists Jimi Jones, James Pate, Annie Ruth, and Cincinnati-born Kamoinge Workshop photographer, Beuford Smith.  


Black Futures Series: Creativity in Dialogue

Thursdays, April 14, 21, and 28, 2022, 6:307 p.m.

Free, including free entry to exhibitions.

Join us on select Thursday evenings in April as CPS Aiken New Tech High School students bring the Kamoinge and Driskell exhibition galleries to life with spoken word performances inspired by the artworks on view, organized in partnership with WordPlay Cincy.


Evenings for Educators

Thursday, April 21, 2022, 4–7 p.m.

Registration is required.

Purchase Tickets

Evenings for Educators is the Cincinnati Art Museum’s monthly teacher professional development program. Through the lens of the Cincinnati Art Museum’s permanent collection and special exhibitions, Evenings for Educators supports all subjects taught in the classroom.

We encourage a STREAM approach as well as 21st Century Learning strategies in the museum and classroom. This program is offered for teachers of all grade levels and disciplines, art appreciation volunteers, pre-service education majors, teaching artists as well as community and museum educators.

TOPIC: Special Exhibitions Highlight: David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History and Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop

For our April program will we hear a presentation from curators Julie Aronson and Nathaniel Stein on two special exhibitions featuring visionary Black artists, followed by a docent-guided tour of the exhibitions and networking with fellow educators. As a special treat, enjoy CPS high school students’ spoken-word responses to the artwork, presented in partnership with WordPlay Cincy. Please join us for this in-person program.

Presented by US Bank


Black Futures Series: Active Imagination: ArtWorks/CAM youth artist exhibition openings 

Thursday, April 28 and Friday, April 29, 2022 


Celebrate the opening of two group exhibitions by the youth artists and mentors participating in the ArtWorks Spring II Youth Exhibition Program—a Black Futures Series partnership inspired by the work of David Driskell and the photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop.

Please visit the Black Futures Series virtual hub for times, venues, and more information about the Active Imagination partnership.


Art After Dark: Sight, Sound & Jazz, and the Black Futures Series Walnut Hills jazz progressive 

Friday, April 29, 2022, 5–9 p.m. at the museum, & till late in Walnut Hills 

Celebrate special exhibitions David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History and Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop with live jazz music from AfroChine, spoken word performances, food for purchase, cash bars and free admission to all exhibitions. Free admission. RSVP not required. #ArtAfterDarkCincy

Please arrive early or consider taking an Uber/Lyft. Parking is limited.

Art After Dark is sponsored by Health Carousel.


Black Futures Series: Capstone Performance

Homage: What was, Is, To Come
Sunday, May 8, 2022, 7–8 p.m.

Experience new dance work by choreographer Countess V. Winfrey. Featuring an original score and a spoken word tour guide, Winfrey’s Homage transports the audience through museum spaces in a three-part performance bringing light to the Black experience of the past and present, and the dream of a Black Future in the Now. Organized in partnership with OhioDance.

Audio tour stops, audio exhibition texts, and transcripts enhance your gallery visit or bring the artists’ voices to you wherever you are.

Access Audio Exhibition

Exhibition Catalogue

This is the first publication to survey the entirety of this hugely influential scholar and artist's groundbreaking 60-year career.  Driskell and his landmark exhibition, Two Centuries of Black American Art are also featured in a recently released major documentary film. The book includes a primary essay by Driskell scholar and curator Julie McGee as well as many other testaments to Driskell by major American artists, art historians, and museum professionals. The catalogue also features a selection of Driskell's most significant writings, introducing the full range of his career to future generations of readers.

Buy Now


Learn More about David Driskell

A Conversation with David Driskell, Colby College, Waterville, Maine, 2017

David C. Driskell Center for the Study of Visual Arts of African Americans and the African Diaspora

Transcript of an Oral History Interview with David Driskell, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 2009

A Tribute to David Driskell: Part 1, Julie McGee, Keynote, “Joy Cometh in the Morning,” John Wilmerding Symposium in American Art 2020, National Gallery of Art, Washington

A Tribute to David Driskell: Part 2, Studio Visit with Curlee Raven Holton, John Wilmerding Symposium in American Art 2020, National Gallery of Art, Washington

“David Driskell, 88, Pivotal Champion of African-American Art, Dies” New York Times, April 7, 2020


This exhibition is co-organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, and the Portland Museum of Art, Maine.


National Tour sponsorship provided by:


Bank of America


Major support is provided by:


Henry Luce Foundation


Presenting sponsor: