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Photograph of Associate Professor Phillip J. Hampton and Student, 1966; courtesy of the family of Phillip J. Hampton.

Telfair Museums presents Feels like Freedom: Phillip J. Hampton, the first large-scale museum retrospective of American painter Phillip J. Hampton (1922–2016), an artist long overdue for continued research and recognition. For 17 years, between 1952 and 1969, Hampton served as an influential visual arts professor and eventual department head at Savannah State College, today known as Savannah State University. He was instrumental in building and expanding a developing arts program and planned arts festivals, taught art appreciation workshops, and organized exhibitions including the first exhibition of African American art at the Telfair Academy in 1959. This new exhibition, alongside a companion exhibition The Early Years at Savannah State’s Kennedy Fine Arts Gallery, will consider Hampton’s impact alongside and as part of the broader context of African American artmaking in the mid-20th century.

Feels Like Freedom traces Hampton’s incredible and innovative artistic production from illustrative realism to abstract experimentation. Beginning with his social realist drawings and paintings created in Savannah, viewers will be captivated by the artist’s creative evolution toward the freedom and self-discovery he found in abstraction. His innovative spirit will be showcased and celebrated through his use of experimental mediums including string gridwork, acrylic emulsions, and shaped canvases. In an interview for the Savannah Morning News in 1995, Hampton stated that he “has always wanted to find something uniquely my own. … The search is more important to me than the conclusion.” This exhibition invites visitors to appreciate Hampton’s undeniably unique vision and revel in the lifelong search that led to an array of incredible works on view for all to enjoy.

This exhibition is organized by Telfair Museums in partnership with Black Art Auction and curated by Erin Dunn, curator of modern and contemporary art.

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