Gladys Barker Grauer

Gladys Barker Grauer in her home and in her element. Photo by Colleen Gutwein.
Gladys Barker Grauer in her home and in her element. Photo by Colleen Gutwein, 2014.

About Gladys Barker Grauer, 1923-2019

Gallery Aferro Artistic Director Evonne M. Davis writes about the “importance of recognizing artists who were making socially engaged work before this kind of art-making had a label, let alone dedicated graduate programs.” Grauer’s significant and varied contributions as a culture worker — artist, educator, organizer, curator, originator, agitator, mentor — must be illuminated and honored because they inform our current moment (is another world possible?), and the curatorial fight against erasure in regards to both the hyperlocal and global art scene

Gladys Barker Grauer was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1923, and grew up on Chicago’s South Side. She attended the Art Institute of Chicago before moving to New York City, where she worked as a freelance artist, became involved in civil rights and political movements, and met and married Solomon Grauer. In 1951, they moved to Newark, NJ, to raise a family and continue their community and political involvement.

Grauer sharing her textile art
Gladys Barker Grauer sharing details about her textile art. Photo credit: Colleen Gutwein, 2014.

Her sociopolitical influence and support led her to run for the U.S. Senate as the Socialist Worker’s Party’s nominee in 1960, when women were still a rarity as the face of a political party. In 1972, Grauer fulfilled a long-time dream and opened the Aard Studio Gallery in Newark’s South Ward. Through her community-based art gallery, Grauer helped launch the careers and critical evaluation of numerous black and brown artists. Her gallery addressed the needs of artists of color by providing a forum for mutual support, professional networking, exhibition and selling of their art, and helped set the stage for the larger appreciation of the creativity of artists of color.

Those early tentative steps at the Aard Studio Gallery led penultimately to the Newark Museum’s 1983 exhibition “Emerging and Established.” This exhibit pointed the way to the future of visual arts in Newark, as well as a higher standard of cultural literacy in New Jersey. Grauer’s commitment, support and promotion of the arts reached beyond the walls of gallery spaces and museums to engage the larger community as a whole. She was a founding member of Black Woman in Visual Perspective, New Jersey Chapter of the National Conference of Artists, and the Newark Arts Council, and served on the Boards of Theater of Universal Images, City Without Walls, and the Newark Arts Council. When not serving on a board or running her own art space, Grauer was mentoring young art students and teaching commercial art in the Essex County Vocational High School system in Newark.

Read the interview between Grauer and guest curator Adrienne Wheeler, conducted for the 2018 solo exhibit at Gallery Aferro, “Speaking Her Mind, Then and Now.”

When looking at my work, what the viewer sees and feels is important, not what the viewer thinks I am saying. 

— Gladys Barker Grauer

Over the past 70 years, Grauer’s artwork has been exhibited locally, nationally and internationally — from the Newark Museum to Dakar, Senegal. Since 2006, she has completed four murals in Newark metropolitan area, including one at Arts High School and along Hawthorne Avenue in a tribute to Newark jazz clubs. Her life and work continues to inspire the next generation of artists and to express, through visual discord, her social, political and personal views. Her work is a part of many private collections, as well as in the permanent collections at the Newark Museum, Montclair Museum, Zimmerli Art Museum, Newark Public Library, Morris Museum, Noyes Museum, National Art Library of the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Library of the National Museum of American Art, New Jersey State Museum, Morgan State University, and Johnson & Johnson.

In addition to her artwork included in permanent collections at museums, libraries, private institutions, universities and more, Grauer has exhibited in countless solo and private shows throughout her multi-decade career. Here is a partial list of select exhibitions that has included Grauer’s work over the years:

Selected Solo Exhibits

  • Gallery Aferro, Newark, NJ
  • William Carlos Williams Center, Paterson NJ
  • Courtney Gallery, Jersey City, NJ
  • Paul Robeson Galleries, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ
  • 1978 Gallery, Maplewood, NJ

Selected Group Exhibits

  • Morris Museum, Morristown, NJ
  • Newark Museum, Newark, NJ
  • Noyes Museum of Art, Hammonton, NJ
  • City Without Walls, Newark, NJ
  • Johnson & Johnson, Newark, NJ
  • Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art, Newark, NJ
  • Bell Labs, Murray Hill, NJ
  • Passaic County Community College, Paterson, NJ
  • Douglass College, New Brunswick, NJ
  • Trenton City Museum, Trenton, NJ
  • The Clocktower, New York City
  • Studio Museum in Harlem, New York City
  • African American Museum of Dallas, Dallas, TX
  • National Gallery of Art, Dakar, Senegal
  • Iandor Fine Art, Newark, NJ
  • Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD
  • Art In The Atrium, Morristown, NJ
  • Cape May Center for Community Art, Cape May, NJ
  • Mason Gross School of the Arts, New Brunswick, NJ
  • William Patterson University Galleries, Wayne, NJ
  • Paul Robeson Galleries, Express Newark, Newark, NJ
  • Newark Public Library, Newark, NJ

Gallery Aferro as curatorial liaison for Gladys Barker Grauer

Art Shop splash

Click to find out more about Gladys Barker Grauer’s work in the Gallery Aferro Art Shop.

Gallery Aferro proudly serves as liaison for the estate of Gladys Barker Grauer to help facilitate all research, purchases and exhibition services for Grauer’s art catalog. For art collectors, curators, scholars, educators, students and enthusiasts, you can now inquire with the gallery staff about Grauer’s body of artworks, as well as access catalogued images and information about her extensive collection of paintings, prints, textiles, and sculptures we now steward. More than five decades of artwork are held at the gallery, ranging from striking early prints dating from her radicalization in Chicago ca. 1940s to recent double-sided textile masterworks made in 2017.

To learn more about this curatorial relationship and how to review and purchase works by Gladys Barker Grauer, please contact Gallery Manager Candace Nicholson at

All images provided by Colleen Gutwein. Gutwein is a digital and analog photographer from the Northeast United States. She works predominantly in documentary and portraiture styles. Her days are currently filled working on The Newark Artists Photo Documentary Project. This multi-year endeavor documents established and emerging visual artists in the City of Newark, creating an archive of their contribution to the dynamic arts and cultural scene that has defined Newark’s artistic community for the past century.