History, Labor, Life: The Prints of Jacob Lawrence
August 30th – December 9th, 2017
History, Labor, Life: The Prints of Jacob Lawrence provides a comprehensive overview of influential American artist Jacob Lawrence’s (1917–2000) printmaking oeuvre, produced from 1963 to 2000. Lawrence started exploring printmaking as an already well-established artist. Printmaking suited his bold formal and narrative style exceptionally well. The relationship between his painting and printmaking were intertwined, with the artist revisiting and remaking earlier paintings as prints.
The exhibition explores three major themes that occupied the artist’s graphic works. Lawrence was primarily concerned with the narration of African-American experiences and histories. His acute observations of community life, work, struggle and emancipation during his lifetime were rendered alongside vividly imagined chronicles of the past. The past and present in his practice are intrinsically linked, providing insight into the social, economic and political realities that continue to impact and shape contemporary society today.
This exhibition is organized by the SCAD Museum of Art and is made possible with support from the Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation.
Focus: Michael Ray Charles
September 19th – December 14th, 2017
Curator, Dr. Cherise Smith
American artist Michael Ray Charles came to prominence in the mid-1990s, just a few years after joining the Art faculty here at The University of Texas at Austin (UT). In his art Charles deploys icons—ranging from watermelons and bananas to toothy grins and white-gloved hands—that have been attached to black people for more than a century. Indeed, he is known not just for his use of challenging images but also for engaging with the problematic narratives associated with them. Less documented, but evident here, is his interrogation of the sports-industrial complex and the complicated ways that African American men, in particular, interact with it. Some viewers might find Charles’s use of caricatures alienating, painful, and not entirely critical. Others may shake their heads at the biting humor and provocation evident in his work.
The range of objects exhibited here—including ink-on-paper sketches, acrylic-on-canvas paintings, and prints—demonstrates the diversity of Charles’s practice. While the artist is well known for his production in two dimensions, Ideas, Languages, Conversations (2015), the abstract sculpture hanging in the building’s atrium, and The Smile (2002) reveal his ability to work in three dimensions as well. Similarly, the painting Cream of the Crop (1992) and Ideas, Languages, Conversations show the artist’s willingness to depart from the figuration that dominates most of his oeuvre. The prints that make up the portfolio-in-progress uncover Charles’s artistic process, which necessarily includes thinking, designing, and experimenting until a successful end product is achieved. Regardless of medium, all of the works gathered here confront significant aspects of the country’s history.
The artworks in this exhibition are borrowed from local collections, demonstrating Charles’s long relationship with African and African Diaspora Studies at UT (AADS) as well as with the Austin area in general. He created many of the untitled sketches during meetings, including those of the Warfield Center executive committee, when Charles and other faculty members were engaged in designing AADS. The drawings reflect a loose style characteristic of active listening at the same time that they illustrate some of the icons that populate his work. Ted Gordon, Charles’s friend and colleague, saved the sketches from a likely fate of being buried in a circular file, thus documenting a common intellectual project as well as their friendship. Meanwhile Cream of the Crop testifies to the decades-long friendship between Charles and the collector Rudolph Green, as it was one of the first of many pieces by Charles that Green acquired. Focus: Michael Ray Charles celebrates the rich interpersonal and professional connections that have nurtured the artist’s critical and artistic practice.
- Dr. Cherise Smith, Curator, Founding Executive Director of the Christian-Green Gallery