In Conversation: The Soul of the Highwaymen

Gary Monroe’s Alfred Hair: Heart of the Highwaymen is a long-awaited testament to the life and work of the man and artist who was the driving force of the Florida […]


In Conversation: The Soul of the Highwaymen

Authors:Joanna Robotham , Gary Monroe


Gary Monroe’s Alfred Hair: Heart of the Highwaymen is a long-awaited testament to the life and work of the man and artist who was the driving force of the Florida Highwaymen, a group of young Black artists who painted their way out of the despair awaiting them in the citrus groves and packing houses of 1950s Florida. He and Joanna Robotham, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Tampa Museum of Art, share their thoughts on the Highwaymen canon.

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Joanna Robotham

Joanna Robotham is the Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Tampa Museum of Art. She previously held the Neubauer Family Foundation Assistant Curator position at the Jewish Museum in New York City. This spring, Ms. Robotham curated the exhibition Frank Stella: What You See and recently organized the Fall 2019 exhibition series Ordinary/Extraordinary: Assemblage in Three Acts: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Purivs Young, and Haitian Vodou Flags. She received her M.A. in Curatorial Studies from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and earned a B.A. in Art History and Political Science from the University of Washington.

Gary Monroe

Gary Monroe, retired professor of fine arts and photography at Daytona State College, is the author of numerous books, including The Highwaymen: Florida’s African-American Landscape Painters; Mary Ann Carroll: First Lady of the Highwaymen; The Highwaymen Murals: Al Black’s Concrete Dreams; and Harold Newton: The Original Highwayman. His photographs have been published in Cassadaga: The South’s Oldest Spiritualist Community (UPF, 2000), which he coedited; Life in South Beach (1989); and Florida Dreams (1993). In dozens of black and white photographs, Gary Monroe offers in The Last Resort: Jewish South Beach, 1977–1986 (University Press of Florida) an intimate view of South Beach before the high rises, the nightlife, and the fashion scene, back when it was a retirement haven for American Jews. After World War II, Jewish retirees from the Northeast found comfort, camaraderie, and culture in the island city of Miami Beach. By the late 1950s, the population was 80% Jewish. Monroe, who grew up in a Jewish household during this time, chronicles the day-to-day activities of the community from sunrise to sunset. Jorge Zamanillo, executive director, History Miami Museum, noted that Monroe “documented an extraordinary moment in South Florida’s history […]We are fortunate that Gary had the vision and the eye to capture this vibrant Jewish community before the neighborhood transformed into today’s world-famous tourist and nightlife destination.”

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