During the time of the Underground Railroad, slaves often left messages in patchwork quilts they created for one another. Sometimes there was a code in the pattern of the cloth. Other times an escape route was hidden in a quilted scene.

During the time of the Underground Railroad, slaves often left messages in patchwork quilts they created for one another. Sometimes there was a code in the pattern of the cloth. Other times an escape route was hidden in a quilted scene.

Every stitch was in its place for a reason.

Romare Bearden created works during the mid-20th century that call to mind these lifelines of fabric. While he also produced album covers, oil paintings and illustrations, his most famous pieces are collage artworks patched together from newsprint and photographs.

Every cutout is in its place for a reason.

The King Arts Complex is showcasing Bearden's works from private collections in an exhibit opening Thursday in its Elijah Pierce Gallery. Multidimensional pieces by Ohio collage artists will accompany the show.

Inspired by events and scenes from his daily life as well as his upbringing in the heart of the Harlem Renaissance, Bearden's collages portray abstract narratives of his culture.

The trains, musical instruments and shanty-town cityscapes that clutter his backgrounds are at once hopeful and realistic. His collaged people are dynamic, with pieces of different faces combined to form one.

An April 9 concert by The Kinkajoo Ensemble and pianist Khalid Moss will round out the exhibit, paying homage to Bearden's influence on visual art and his adoration of the American jazz scene.