Sunday, March 31, 2013

Highwayman Al Black - Landscape Painter Visits

50s And 60s Paintings Now Selling Well At 10 Times The Original Prices

LABELLE, FL. -- Al Black, acknowledged as one of the original Florida Highwaymen artists, visited LaBelle Heritage Museum on Saturday, March 30, at the wrap-up of the local group's month long retrospective of the Art of the Florida Highwaymen.

"Highwaymen" was the name given to a group of African American landscape painters loosely based in Fort Pierce who started selling their paintings out of the trunks of their cars up and down the major highways of South Florida when east coast art galleries refused to accept any of their works for exhibit and sale during the Jim Crow days of the 1950s and 1960s.

Many local business people would buy one or two paintings almost every time Al Black came through LaBelle in the 1960s and1970s since they were not only eye catching but easily affordable at their original prices, usually under $45. 

 Art critics usually ignored these African American artists notwithstanding their popularity with the public and the growing number of their paintings displayed in local offices and residences throughout Southwest Florida until the 1990s when they were "discovered" and given the name "Highwaymen" in recognition of their marketing practice of going up and down South Florida highways and stopping to sell their paintings wherever they saw groups of offices and stores where there were possible buyers. 

Some of the early Highwaymen paintings have commanded prices 1,000 per cent higher than their original cost, and many imitators have attempted to cash in on their fame.

Al Black visited with some 50 visitors at LaBelle Heritage Museum, sold some autographed copies of the latest book about him as well as both original Al Black framed paintings and prints. He captivated his audience with his personality as well as with his art. 

When Black, his wife and 13 year-old daughter packed up for their trip back to Fort Pierce, he told museum president Joe Thomas that he looks forward to being invited back to participate in future retropectives of Highwaymen

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