Selections from the Cochran Collection of African American Art

Detail of Mildred Thompson's "Death and Orgasm 1."

Together: Selections from the Cochran Collection of African American Art presents works on paper from the collection of LaGrange, Georgia residents Wesley and Missy Cochran. The collection comprises works created by both prominent and under-recognized African American artists who explore varied narratives, including racial identity, social justice and equality, cultural and individual agency, and abstraction. Artists featured in the collection—Emma Amos, Romare Beardon, Camille Billops, Robert Blackburn, Beverly Buchanan, Elizabeth Catlett, David Driskell, Valerie Maynard, Sam Middleton, Howardena Pindell, Faith Ringgold, Betye and Alison Saar, Alma Thomas, Mildred Thompson, Dox Thrash, and Hale Woodruff, among so many others, whose work dealt with significant social, political, and historical themes from the early 1900s to today.  

This exhibition pays particular homage to the relationships and settings that guided the Cochrans as they built their collection, from salons held at Camille Billops’ Soho loft to Robert Blackburn’s Printmaking Workshop in Chelsea, both of which were hubs of creative and intellectual engagement, down south to the Grant Park living room of Mildred Thompson, an inimitable and influential Atlanta artist and educator.  

The Cochrans visited studios nationwide committed to buying directly from artists and growing their collection ethically. They became ardent supporters of artists and the field of African American art. Their goal was to travel exhibitions created from the collection and make works by Black artists accessible to small museums, cultural and educational institutions, and community organizations throughout the South. As a two-person team for the last four decades, they have traveled their collection nationwide. “We always decide, and work, together,” Wes remarked in a 1990 Art Papers interview with Mildred Thompson. They had amassed almost 100 works by Black American artists at the time of the interview; now, that number exceeds 500.

“We have tried to develop a reputation for being dependable, that our checks don’t bounce and that we keep our promises,” said Wes of this period of personal growth and collection expansion. The title of this exhibition, Together, refers at once to the Cochrans' collecting philosophy, the guidance of their mentors, and the relationships they formed with artists who became friends.  


Exhibition Wall Labels


This exhibition, Together: Selections from the Cochran Collection of African American Art, is curated by Andi McKenzie, curator of works on paper at the Carlos Museum, and Alexandra Nelson, Schulz Intern, Spelman C2025. 

The exhibition will be on view in the John Howett Works on Paper Gallery on Level One. 

Featured detail of image: Mildred Thompson, Death & Orgasm I, 1991. Etching, A/P. Wesley and Missy Cochran Collection © The Mildred Thompson Estate. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co.