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Keith Anthony Morrison

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Keith Morrison

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School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Keith Anthony Morrison, CD (born May 20, 1942), is a Jamaican-born painter, printmaker, educator, critic, curator and administrator.


He has exhibited worldwide, including in the Venice Biennale, the Museum of Modern Art, Monterrey, Mexico, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian Institution and the deYoung Museum. In the USA he has had solo exhibitions in cities such as New York, Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Boston. Morrison has had a significant career as a writer also, having published in many periodicals and museum catalogues. He is also a notable curator, having organized exhibitions in Cuba, the USA and his native Jamaica. He represented Jamaica as an artist in the 2001 Venice Biennale. In 2008 he represented the USA as critic to the Shanghai Biennale. Morrison served as Dean of Tyler School of Art; Temple University, Philadelphia; Dean for the College of Creative Arts, San Francisco State University; Dean for Academic Affairs, San Francisco Art Institute, and Dean for the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he was previously Professor and Chair of the Art Department. He was also Distinguished Visiting Artist/Scholar at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Previously he was Associate Dean and Associate Professor, University of Illinois, Chicago; Art Department Chair, DePaul University; and Assistant Professor of Art at Fisk University. Morrison studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he received a BFA in 1963, and MFA in 1965. Keith Morrison, a book written by art historian Dr. Rene Ater, was published by Pomegranate Press in 2004. More information may be found elsewhere on the web, including museum and university websites, and at


Keith Anthony Morrison, artist, art educator, curator, art critic, and administrator, was born in Linstead, Jamaica, May 20, 1942. Morrison studied art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, with academics at the University of Chicago, and earned a BFA in spring, 1963. In the fall 1963 he returned to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he earned an MFA in 1965. He completed further graduate study at DePaul University and Loyola University, earning the equivalent of a master's degree in Art Education in 1967.

Morrison has exhibited his paintings and prints across the US, his native Jamaica and abroad, and was selected to represent Jamaica at the 2001 Venice Biennale. His paintings, drawings and prints have been shown in countries such as China, Columbia, Brazil, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Liberia, Mexico, Nigeria, Japan.

His works are included in numerous private and public collections, including those of the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago; the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the Pennsylvania Academy; the Corcoran Gallery of Art; the National Museum of American Art; the Museum of Modern Art, Monterrey, the High Museum, Mexico; the Caribbean Biennale, the Havana Biennale, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, the World Bank; the Washington Post; the Burrell Advertising Collection, and the Jamaica Institute of Art. He has also exhibited in numerous art galleries across the world, including US solo shows in New York, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington DC and San Francisco. Morrison has had many solo exhibitions, including shows at the University of Delaware Museums, 511 Gallery, NYC; Miller/Geisler Gallery, NYC; the DeYoung Museum, San Francisco; the Bomani Gallery, San Francisco, the Luce Gallery, Cornell College, the Jan Cicero Gallery, Chicago; Brody's Gallery, Washington, DC; the Liz Harris Gallery, Boston; Cavin-Morris Gallery and The Alternative Museum, both in New York City. His work has been included in hundreds of group exhibitions, including exhibits at the National American Museum of art, Smithsonian Institution, Cincinnati Art Museum, High Museum, Newark Art Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, the Bronx Museum; the Wadsworth Athenaeum; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Butler Museum of American Art; the Southeast Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and the Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago.

He has been called an American artist but no less so a Jamaican one, having represented both countries. Morrison represented Jamaica in the 1994 Caribbean Biennial in Santo Domingo. In 2001 Morrison represented Jamaica in the globally prestigious Venice Biennale. In 2008 he represented the USA as art critic and cultural envoy to the Shanghai Biennale.

Morrison's work has been featured in many publications, including the book African Diaspora in the Cultures of Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States, an anthology of essays by 14 scholars, which includes one of his paintings on the cover and 10 inside; the Getty Museum's Mortality/Immortality; Myth and Magic in the Americas: the Eighties, by Charles Mereweather/Museum of Modern Art, Monterrey, Mexico; Lucy Lippards' Mixed Blessings; Reginia Perry's Free Within Ourselves; David Driskell's Contemporary Visual Expressions; Samella Lewis’ Caribbean Visions; Richard Powell's Black Art and Culture in the 20th Century; Virginia Mecklenburg's African American Art from the Harlem Renaissance to the Civil Rights Era and Beyond, Smithsonian Institution; Veerle Poupeye’s Caribbean Art; Crystal Britton’s African–American Art: The Long Hard Struggle; Judith Bettelheim's essay "A Transnational Artist with a Jamaica Soul", African Arts Magazine, 1996; and Art in Chicago: The First 50 Years, 1996. Keith Morrison, a biography, Pomegranate Press, was written by Rene Ater in 2004.

In 2012 an exhibition of Keith Morrison's paintings, titled "The Middle Passage," curated by Julie McGee, was held at the University of Delaware Museums. Fourteen international scholars were assembled to make presentations at a symposium that was created around the exhibition. In 2014 the book, "African Diaspora in the Cultures of Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States," edited by Persephone Braham (University of Delaware Press), was published to document the symposium that was formed around Morrison's art.

Morrison has curated many exhibitions, including "Magical Visions," an exhibition of 10 international African-American artists, at the University of Delaware Museums, 20012. The exhibition included art by Terry Adkins, Sonya Clark, Mel Edwards, Sam Gilliam, Barkley L. Hendricks, Kalup Linzy, Odili Odita, Karyn Olivier, Faith Ringgold, and William T. Williams. Morrison curated The Curator's Eye III: 'Ceremony in Space, Time and Sound,' Multimedia and Performance Art in Jamaica, National Gallery of Art, Kingston, Jamaica, in 2008. The exhibition included 14 Jamaican artists, some living abroad but most at home. The exhibition included more traditional art such as painting, sculpture, ceramics, but also included newer kinds of art such as video and performance art. Morrison's idea was to show that Jamaica was an original source of some new art ideas, comparable to anywhere in the world. The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue, which Morrison wrote, describing the concept of the exhibition and articulating ideas in it. The catalogue included a biography of each artist.

In 1999 Morrison traveled to Cuba and, with the help of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba, organized an exhibition of contemporary Cuban artists, which he toured to the US and exhibited at San Francisco State University. The exhibition, accompanied by a catalogue the curator wrote, included lithographs, photographs video and film.

In 1985, Morrison curated Art in Washington and Its African American Presence: 1940-1970, an exhibition of more than 60 artists and more than 50 works of African art at Washington Project for the Arts Gallery, in Washington, DC. The 60+ artists were American, African, Caribbean, European and others of mixed heritage. He borrowed their art from Howard University, the Barnett Aden Collection, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Phillips Collection and private collectors. The 50+ African works were classical pieces he borrowed from the Smithsonian Institution.

Working with Warren Robbins, founding Director of the Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Morrison conceived an exhibition that linked African Art, African-American art, art by Caucasians in the USA, art of the Caribbean, European art, and art of South America. The exhibition and accompanying researched book-length color catalogue, which Morrison wrote, revealed the important contribution to American art that was made by Howard University and the Barnett-Aden Gallery in the development of not only African-American art, or even American art, but world art in general. The exhibition included artists from countries such as Brazil, Cuba, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Haiti, Nigeria, Sudan, Switzerland, the USA and the UK, and showed the global scope of thinking that originated among African-American artists, curators and scholars of the era, such as W. E. B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Alain Locke, James Porter, Alonzo Aden and James Herring. Some, including the Washington Post and the Washington Times, called it one of the most important exhibitions history of Washington.

In 1969 Morrison curated the exhibition Jacob Lawrence’s Toussaint L’Ouverture Series, at DePaul University Gallery, Chicago. The exhibition included all 39 works from Jacob Lawrence's historic series of paintings.

Among other exhibitions Morrison has curated are Black Art '71, Bergman Gallery, University of Chicago; African-American Art in Washington (Sam Gilliam, Martha Jackson Jarvis, Joyce Scott, Jerome Meadows, Sylvia Snowden, Sherman Fleming), WPA Gallery; Art from Washington, Nexus Gallery, Philadelphia; and Prints at the Brandywine Workshop, Philadelphia.

He has served as art consultant for many state arts agencies in the United States. He is a former commentator for the weekly TV program Around Town, broadcast by WETA-TV in Washington DC.

A writer and critic, Morrison has published articles, essays, catalogs, and reviews in periodicals, newspapers and museum catalogs, and was an editor for the New Art Examiner. He is author of Art in Washington and Its Afro-American Presence: 1940-1970, Stephenson Press, VA, 1985. He has contributed articles to numerous publications, including more than 40 articles for the New Art Examiner (where he was guest editor); articles for American Visions, the Washington Post, the USIA, the University of Chicago, and the Smithsonian Institution. He has written catalog essays for museums such as the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, the Getty Museum, the Alternative Museum, and Pomegranate Press; and Stephenson Press. He wrote the catalogue essay "Ceremony in Space Sound and Time", National Gallery of Jamaica; essays for the Brandywine Workshop, the University of Chicago and the catalogue essay "Magical Visions", University of Delaware Museums. His book, "Art in Washington and Its Afro-American Presence: 1940-1970" (Stephenson Press, 1885), and his article for the New Art Examiner (reprinted, Northern Illinois University Press/NEA, 2012), "Art Criticism: a Pan-African Point of View", are both widely considered seminal works in the field.

Morrison has consulted on art for many agencies, public and private. In 1971 he was consultant, briefly, to Caribbean author John Hearne at the Creative Art Centre at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica; and to collector/proprietor A. D. Scott, on Jamaican art, at the Olympia Gallery, Kingston, Jamaica. In the US Morrison has served on a number of art boards and state agencies, in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, Illinois, and California. He was a cultural-economic consultant for the Harlem Urban Development Corporation, New York, NY.

Morrison was a frequent panelist on the weekly TV show Around Town, in Washington DC between 1998 and 2002. He has made numerous other TV appearances over the years, some in Jamaica, but most in the US. Maryland Public TV made a film of his work 1n 1990. PBS featured his curated exhibition Magical Visions in 2012. He was one of five international artists featured in the PBS film Free Within Ourselves.

He has lectured worldwide in countries such as Jamaica, China, Cuba, Canada, Japan, Liberia, Taiwan, and across the US. He has lectured in institutions such as the San Francisco Art Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Getty Museum; Art Institute of Chicago; the Smithsonian Institution; the College Art Association of America; the Modern Language Association of America; the Cooper Union Institute; the Crocker Museum; the Cincinnati Museum of Art; the Massachusetts College of Art; the California Institute of Art; the Baltimore Institute of Art; the Maryland Institute College of Art; the University of the West Indies, Jamaica; and the University of Liberia. Morrison gave the 50th Anniversary address for the Edna Manley School of Art, Jamaica, 2001. He gave keynote addresses at UC Berkeley; the San Francisco Art Institute; the Brandywine Workshop; the DuSable Museum; the National Museum of American History; and the Ludwig Foundation of Havana, Cuba.

In 2017 Keith Morrison's book, "Art in Washington and It's Afro-American Presence: 1940-1970," was the foundation for the National Gallery of Art's Symposium on African-American Art in Washington, D.C. in the Mid-Twentieth Century.

Morrison's work has been reviewed in many publications, including the Jamaica Gleaner, Jamaica Observer, New York Times, New Yorker. Art News, Art Forum, Art in America, Smithsonian Magazine, New Art Examiner, Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Washington Times, and African Arts.

As an arts administrator, Morrison served as Chair of the Art Department, DePaul University, Chicago, from 1969 to 1971. He was Associate Dean of the College of Architecture and Art at the University of Illinois, Chicago (1972–76). From 1987 to 1992 he was Chair of the Art Department, University of Maryland, College Park. From January 1993 to June 1994 he was Dean for Academic Affairs at the San Francisco Art Institute. From May 1994 to July 1996 he was Dean of the College of Creative Arts at San Francisco State University. From August 1996 to January 1997, he was Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland, College Park. In February 1997 he returned to his former position of Dean of the College of Creative Arts at San Francisco State University, a position he held until 2005. At San Francisco State he raised funds, created festivals and exhibitions in Art, Film, Music and Theatre, and led the departments of Cinema and Music to elite national and international ranking. He was also the founder and director of the annual international John Handy Jazz Festival, held at San Francisco State University, 2000–01. Morrison was appointed Dean for the Tyler School of Arts Temple University from 2005 to 2008. At Tyler he restructured the budget, expanded the programs internationally to include Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and added many faculty and lab technicians.

In addition to his work as art administrator, Morrison has had a distinguished career as a teacher. His first teaching appointment was as an art instructor at Roosevelt High School in Gary Indiana, 1965-67. He was Assistant Professor of Art at Fisk University, 1967–69; Associate Professor and Chair of Art, DePaul University, 1969–71; Associate Professor of Art (serving as Associate Dean, 1974–79) at the University of Illinois, Chicago, 1971-79. In 1979 he became only the fourth African American to be appointed full professor in the history of the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP), where he taught until 1992. He was appointed Chair of the UMCP Art Department from 1989 until his departure in 1992. Morrison has also been a visiting faculty at several institutions, including as the visiting Chaves/King Professor, at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, with a joint appointment in the School of Art and the Institute for the Humanities, in spring 1990. He has lectured at numerous art schools and universities across the us, at universities in Cuba, Japan, Taiwan and Liberia, and at many universities across China. He holds the rank of Professor is in the Tyler School of Art, Temple University.

A book on the artist, titled Keith Morrison, written by art historian René Ater, was published by Pomegranate Press in 2005.


Morrison has earned many awards and distinctions, including the title of Commander in the Order of Distinction, Jamaica, 2017; the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Brandywine Workshop, 2013; a Ford Foundation award; Danforth Foundation award; Bi-Centennial Award for Painting in Chicago; Award for Painting from the Organization of African States, 1979; Caribbean Biannual, 1994; Venice Biennale, 2001; National Award for Educators in the Arts; "Caribbean person of the Bay Area," California, 1993; US State Department Cultural Envoy to the Shanghai Biennale, 2008; Fulbright Award, 2009. He was the first person of African descent to serve as academic dean in a predominantly Caucasian American art school or university, an accomplishment he has achieved five times.


Keith Anthony Morrison was born in Jamaica. He was the only child of Noel and Beatrice Morrison, who lived alternately in Linstead and Spanish Town from his birth in 1942 until 1947 then moved to Trout Hall, Clarendon, where Noel, a railway station master, was transferred. In 1949 Noel was transferred to Buff Bay, Portland, where he relocated the family of three. In 1953 Noel was again transferred, to Annotto Bay Railway Station, St. Mary. Beatrice, a registered nurse, went to work at the Annotto Bay Hospital. The family of three lived there while Keith studied at Calabar High School and until he left Jamaica to study art in the US in 1959. Keith had attended Mrs. Gordon's Primary School when the family lived in Linstead; but did not attend school between 1947 and 1949 when the family lived in Trout Hall, at that time a small rural village, where, apparently, they found no school suitable for him. When they moved to Buff Bay the parents sent him to a primary school there in 1950, but the boy, unaccustomed to school, was traumatized, and so Beatrice decided to tutor him at home herself. He recalled that his mother taught him to draw at that time.

The next year, 1951, they enrolled him in Buff Bay Primary School. However, the following year they sent him back to Linstead to live with his surrogate grandmother (his biological grandparents had died) and enrolled him in Linstead Public School. This was probably because Beatrice, a registered nurse, needed to work out-of-town at that time, so thought it best for him to return to Linstead. Again, he was a pupil for only one year in the same school, for, the following year, 1952, he was moved back to live with his parents, but travelled by train daily to attend Tichfield Elementary School, 20 miles away in Port Antonio. This too lasted only one year because he was accepted to study at Calabar High School in Kingston, a school for boys, where he was enrolled as a boarding students in January 1953. He attended Calabar from 1953 through 1958. He was an erratic student, being indifferent to school for the first two–three years, and was much more interested in playing than in studying. In 1954 Mrs. Ogle came to teach art at Calabar and her teaching inspired the boy’s imagination. Among the students Mrs. Ogle taught at Calabar at that time were Jamaican artists Noel Swaby and Stafford Schlieffer, and Morrison’s lifelong friend, the Jamaican-born Canadian architect Richard Henriquez. (A few years later she also taught David Boxer, the distinguished Jamaican artist and former Director of the National Gallery of Art in Jamaica.)

By 1957 Morrison became significantly more interested in other areas of his education. Morrison remembers receiving art prizes, including one awarded by Honorable Norman Manley. Manley and his wife, the great artist Edna Manley, gave Morrison encouragement in later years. He also remembers receiving another prize for the "Best All Round Boy" in his last year at Calabar. He remembers learning from many kind and excellent teachers at Calabar and from the example of some older boys there. Looking back at his youth, he expressed gratitude to Calabar for its even-handed treatment of all students irrespective of their background, and felt that Calabar's egalitarian ethic had profound influence on his development. By the time he left Calabar, in December 1958, he had become a serious all-round student.

After leaving Calabar (six months shy of his 17th birthday), he pursued evening academic classes elsewhere in Kingston. By day he became a sound effects technician at the new JBC radio station in Kingston, where he worked with Jamaica’s best comedians, including Louise Bennett, Ranny Williams and Charles Hyatt. He recalled that between the ages of eight and 10, his mother had taken him at least twice to see the annual pantomime at the Ward Theater in Kingston, which he loved, and which added to his enthusiasm for work with actors and comedians at JBC. He worked at JBC until September that year, 1959, when he left Jamaica to study at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The artist credits his early childhood experiences of pantomime at the Ward Theatre and his work with comedians at JBC for honing his love of satire, which has carried through to his mature work as an artist. He credits his art teacher Mrs. S. Ogle at Calabar High School for opening for him a wide horizon of art. But most of all he credits his parents for trusting him to pursue art — largely at their own expense — and for allowing him to go abroad to study when he was so young.


Keith Anthony Morrison Wikipedia