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The Way We Was

1990 Herbert Singleton Born: New Orleans, Louisiana 1945 Died: New Orleans, Louisiana 2007 carved and painted wood, metal locks and hinges 97 x 38 1/2 x 2 1/2 in. (246.4 x 97.8 x 6.4 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Chuck and Jan Rosenak and museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment 1997.124.88 Smithsonian American Art Museum
1st Floor, West Wing

Gallery Label

Herbert Singleton was born in the New Orleans neighborhood of Algiers. His art drew heavily on life in a corrosive inner-city neighborhood and addressed, comprehensively, both themes of racial injustice and the rich African-American cultural traditions of his region. Singleton started carving in the 1970s, making canes and relief carvings on old doors, cabinets, and driftwood. “When the river was low, I would find a plank of wood to carve.” Singleton said in 1990. “I would look at it and wonder if someone's house and life fell apart." 


Figure group

sculpture - relief

folk art


readymade - hardware