Born in Philadelphia, Barbara Chase-Riboud is an African-American sculptor as well as a novelist. She received a BFA from Temple University and was the first African American woman to receive an MFA from Yale, where she studied with Josef Albers, Phillip Johnson, Paul Rand, and Alvin Eisenman. Over five decades, Chase-Riboud has created art and written fiction with a deep understanding of history and identity. She has lived most of her life in London and in Paris; travels to Asia and Africa have also influenced her work and outlook.
Chase-Riboud is best known for her Malcolm X sculptures, which she began in 1969 in memory of Malcolm X, whose assassination in 1965 deeply affected her. In 2003 and later, she added to this group of works, now totaling 20. In 1996, she began her Monument Drawings series, which similarly pays tribute to historical figures. In the same year, she received a commission from the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to create Africa Rising, a sculpture commemorating the discovered African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan, a colonial-era cemetery for free and enslaved Africans.
Her drawings and prints typically refer to monuments as well. The print above depicts ideas for an unrealized sculpture, an homage to the 20th-century Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, whose poem cycle, “Requiem,” conveys experiences during the Stalinist years.
In 1974, Chase-Riboud published her first book of poetry, From Memphis & Peking, edited by Toni Morrison (Random House), and in 1979, she published her first novel, Sally Hemings (Viking Press), an international bestseller about the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings.
Barbara Chase-Riboud (American, born 1939), Akhmatova's Monument, Paris, 1995, color offset lithograph, 29 15/16 × 21 5/8 inches. Gift of Marilyn Pearl Loesberg, 2020.114.