Three Men, 1966-67
Collage and mixed media on board
58 x 42 inches
Signed lower left
Bearden mined his experience as an African American for his principle subject matter. Collage proved to be an excellent medium for him, as it allowed for incongruous pairings of images that brilliantly spoke to the complexities of African American personhood. Bearden created compositions with multiple layers of meaning. His work reveals remarkable intellectual curiosity, and the breadth of his interests defies the limits of artistic and cultural categorization.
Three Men is one of Bearden’s largest collages. Here Bearden conjures the complex experience of the African American male: the hulking figures are deeply masculine and active as they directly engage the viewer with their large, masklike eyes. Yet they stand idly, hands in pockets with one large hand smoking a cigarette. The collage’s prevailing sense of fracture gives it a surreal quality. While it might not be readily knowable, Bearden presents his viewer with a kaleidoscope of possibilities, much like the real lives of his depicted figures.