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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Migration Series migrates from The Phillips today


Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), The Migration Series, 1940-1941, presented at The Phillips Collection. The caption for the above (#49) reads:
They found discrimination in the North. It was a different kind.

Note the yellow dividing line separating the white and black customers, the scowl on the face of the man on the left reading a newspaper and the haughty profile of the other white man. The black faces are obscured by the color of their skin, and they become anonymous figures, representatives of their kinfolk
 
Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) is the artist who transferred African American life to canvas in dramatic, contrasting panels, known as the Migration Series, on view at the Phillips Collection for one day more.

The exhibition unites the collections from the Phillips and the Museum Of Modern Art
of 60 panels painted on cardboard by one of the most revered African-American artists of the 20th century, Jacob Lawrence. In a little over a year (1940-1941), Lawrence drew images of the thousands of blacks who moved from the rural South to the urban North in search of better lives, before and after World War I.  Lawrence's parents were among them.

Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), The Migration Series, 1940-1941, presented at The Phillips Collection. The caption for the above (#59) reads:
In the North they had the freedom to vote.

The series launched his career overnight, earning him the distinction of becoming the first African American to be represented by a major New York gallery (1941) and the first black artist whose works were represented in the Museum of Modern Art (1941).

That same year
a portion of the Migration Series appeared among the pages of Fortune. For a white man's magazine to use a black man's renderings seven years before the U.S. Armed Forces were integrated, 13 years before Brown v. Board of Education, and decades before the Civil Rights Act was passed (1964), was significant.
Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), The Migration Series, 1940-1941. The caption for the panel (No. 30) reads:
In every southern home people met to decide whether or not to go north

 
Lawrence's father was born in South Carolina, his mother, in Virginia, and Jacob Lawrence was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  The family moved north, and when their son was 7, his parents divorced.  Jacob and his siblings were placed in foster homes in Philadelphia until their mother could support them. Six year later, the soon-to-be artist and his siblings joined their mother in New York.


Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), The Travelers, 1961, presented at The Phillips Collection, David C. Driskell Center, University of Maryland, permanent loan from David C. Driskell Collection


The Driskell Center says Jacob's Travelers was based upon political and social upheaval occurring between 1954 and 1964.
Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), The Migration Series, 1940-1941, presented at The Phillips Collection/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 
To keep him busy, Wikipedia says, his mother enrolled him in art classes where a teacher saw his potential. (A brief look at the biographies of Lawrence and Whitfield Lovell, another exhibition ending Sunday at The Phillips, will convince most skeptics about the benefits and values of art education.)

Lawrence found solace in art, embracing the Harlem Renaissance. When he was 23, he received a $1,500 scholarship from the Rosenwald Foundation which enabled him to begin work on the Migration Series.

In 2007 the White House Historical Association bid $2.5 million for Lawrence's The Builders which now hangs in the Green Room.


 
Augusta Savage (1892-1962), Gamin, 1929, bronze (later casting of original plaster), David C. Driskell Center, University of Maryland, permanent loan from David C. Driskell Collection/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Augusta Savage was a sculptor, political activist, and mentor to many black artists including Jacob Lawrence whose Harlem residence was near her studio and classrooms. There Lawrence studied and met his future wife, Gwendolyn Knight. "Gamin" is French for "street urchin" or "kid," whom Ms. Savage made into one, the face of the many children she taught. The label on the wall quotes Lawrence:

If Augusta Savage hadn't insisted on getting me onto [sic] the [Federal Art Project], I don't think I would ever have become an artist.
 
What: People on the Move: Beauty and Struggle in Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series

When:
Through Sunday, January 8, 2017, 12 - 7 p.m.

Where: The Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St., N.W. at Q St., Washington, D.C. 20009


Admission:
$12, $10 for students and those over 62, free for members and for children 18 and under. Ticket includes admission to all exhibitions on view including Whitfield Lovell: The Kin Series & Related Works.

Metro Station: Dupont Circle (Q Street exit. Turn left and walk one block.)
 

For more information: 202-387-2151


Patricialesli@gmail.com





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