This guide includes information about the fine art prints on the 9th floor of Wells Library at Indiana University Bloomington. Use the resources on each page to uncover how art reflects the society in which it was created.
The article reviews the April 3, 2015 to September 7, 2015 exhibition "One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North" at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City and the January 10, 2015 to August 9, 2015 exhibition "Struggle . . . From The History of the American People" at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.
Question: How can paintings like Jacob Lawrence's "Children at Play" help today’s citizens understand the American Civil Rights era?
The materials from IU Libraries can help us answer questions like these. Use the links on this page to learn more about Jacob Lawrence and the Harlem Renaissance.
In 1941, Jacob Lawrence, then just twenty-three years old, completed a series of sixty small tempera paintings with text captions about the Great Migration. Within months of its making, Lawrences Migration series was divided between The Museum of Modern Art (even numbered panels) and the Phillips Memorial Gallery (odd numbered panels). The work has since become a landmark in the history of African-American art, a monument in the collections of both institutions, and a crucial example of the way in which history painting was radically reimagined in the modern era. In 2015 and 2016, marking the centenary of the Great Migrations start (191516), the panels will be reunited in exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art and then The Phillips Collection. Published to accompany the exhibition, this publication both grounds Lawrences Migration series in the cultural and political debates that shaped the young artists work and highlights the series continued resonance for artists and writers working today. An essay by Leah Dickerman situates the series in relation to heady contemporary discussions of the artists role as a social agent; a growing imperative to write and give image to black history in the late 1930s and early 1940s; and an emergent sense of activist politics. Elsa Smithgall traces the exhibition history of the Migration panels from their display at the Downtown Gallery in New York in 1941 to their acquisition by MoMA and the Phillips Collection a year later. Short commentaries on each panel explore Lawrences career and painting technique and aspects of the social history of the Migration portrayed in his images. The catalogue also debuts ten poems newly commissioned from acclaimed poets written in response to the Migration series. Elizabeth Alexander (honoured as the poet at President Obamas first inauguration) introduces the poetry project with a discussion of the poetic quality of Lawrences work, as well as the impact and legacy of the poets in his orbit including Claude McKay and Langston Hughes.
Jacob Lawrence was one of the best-known African American artists of the twentieth century. In Painting Harlem Modern, Patricia Hills renders a vivid assessment of Lawrence's long and productive career. She argues that his complex, cubist-based paintings developed out of a vital connection with a modern Harlem that was filled with artists, writers, musicians, and social activists. She also uniquely positions Lawrence alongside such important African American writers as Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison. Drawing from a wide range of archival materials and interviews with artists, Hills interprets Lawrence's art as distilled from a life of struggle and perseverance. She brings insightful analysis to his work, beginning with the 1930s street scenes that provided Harlem with its pictorial image, and follows each decade of Lawrence's work, with accounts that include his impressions of Southern Jim Crow segregation and a groundbreaking discussion of Lawrence's symbolic use of masks and masking during the 1950s Cold War era. Painting Harlem Modern is an absorbing book that highlights Lawrence's heroic efforts to meet his many challenges while remaining true to his humanist values and artistic vision.
Migrating the Black Body explores how visual media--from painting to photography, from global independent cinema to Hollywood movies, from posters and broadsides to digital media, from public art to graphic novels--has shaped diasporic imaginings of the individual and collective self. How is the travel of black bodies reflected in reciprocal black images? How is blackness forged and remade through diasporic visual encounters and reimagined through revisitations with the past? And how do visual technologies structure the way we see African subjects and subjectivity? This volume brings together an international group of scholars and artists who explore these questions in visual culture for the historical and contemporary African diaspora. Examining subjects as wide-ranging as the appearance of blackamoors in Russian and Swedish imperialist paintings, the appropriation of African and African American liberation images for Chinese Communist Party propaganda, and the role of YouTube videos in establishing connections between Ghana and its international diaspora, these essays investigate routes of migration, both voluntary and forced, stretching across space, place, and time.
Although we generally use "Harlem Renaissance" to refer to African American cultural production of the 1920s and 1930s, this concept, as we are familiar with it today, is far more recent. In my dissertation, I consider the ex-post facto "making" of the Harlem Renaissance. From its inception in the 1920s, the Renaissance (initially the "Negro" and then "Harlem" Renaissance) has been an unstable but politically useful category for defining blackness. First popularized by Alain Locke in The New Negro (1925), the term was imagined to encourage, coordinate, and package an unprecedented burst of Negro writing, painting, music, and drama in an effort towards political and social equality. Between the late-1930s and the present, subsequent generations have continually returned to the concept of the Renaissance, re-shaping the field to respond to contemporary issues and to promote certain versions of African American identity, often in an attempt to challenge America's enduring racism. However, especially during the 1960s and 1970s, the Harlem Renaissance became increasingly narrow, and a substantial body of African American writing and art from the period was obscured, written out largely in order to consolidate "authentic" blackness and demonstrate the clear existence of tradition. Certain non-conforming authors, texts, bodies, performances, genres, events, and geographies were trimmed from the prevailing Renaissance narrative. My dissertation, in theorizing obscurity and recovering specific sites of persisting neglect, considers the politics of cultural memory, and how, why, and at what cost such erasure has occurred. Ultimately, I argue that the concept of the Renaissance, its canon, and its relationship to African American literature and American racial paradigms has revealed as much about the needs of the attending generation as it has informed us about the art and culture of the 1920s and 1930s.
In the early 20th century, blacks moved north in hope of a better life with little more than a prayer and the shirts on their backs. In this program, poet Maya Angelou, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, and a host of other African-Americans recount the story of the migration, of separated families, and of the hardships, prejudice, and struggle for acceptance in the North that resulted in disillusionment. Black luminaries include James Cameron, author of A Time of Terror; Jacob Lawrence, artist and creator of The Black Migration series; and Dr. Julius Garvey, son of Marcus Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and the Back to Africa movement of the 1920s.