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Charles White: Influences exhibit
April 2 @ 11:00 am - June 11 @ 4:00 pmFree
Charles White: Influences Exhibition
April 2 – June 11, 2022 (Closed June 2nd)
Free to the Public
Open Mondays-Saturdays, 11am-4pm (masks required)
Socially conscious, politically active, inspirational: Charles White was one of the most influential African-American artists and celebrated draftsman working in the twentieth century. Best known for depicting people of color in both heroic, and realistic ways, White’s portraits reinforced the dignity, humanity, and beauty of the black figure. Rockland Center for the Arts (RoCA) is proud to present for its 75th Anniversary year, Charles White: Influences, an exhibition in partnership with the Gordon Center for Black Culture & Arts and the CEJJES Institute.
Charles White: Influences will open on April 2nd, 2022, 2:00-5:00pm, in honor of the artist’s birthday and will be on view through June 11, 2022. The exhibit will trace the trajectory of his most influential relationships: both those acolytes his work influenced through generations and those progenitors who influenced and informed his work. This exhibit will act as a testament to his lasting significance as an artist, activist, and educator.
Included with the exhibition will be: a one act play by Samuel Harps; a panel discussion on the legacy of Charles White; a virtual lecture on starting an art collection of African-American artists and others; community workshop activities and additional exhibits of community artworks. The exhibit, play, workshops, panel discussions, and lectures will all be free of charge and open to the public.
White’s career of drawing, painting, and graphics were representational art of social concern, with profound feeling and resonant of human dignity. His masterpiece artworks reflected his commitment to social and economic justice, the human condition, and empowering the black masses. He was determined to defend the achievements of his people against the misinformation and grotesque stereotypes that affronted them in books, motion pictures, cartoons, newspapers, jokes, and advertisements. In 1940, White told an interviewer: “I am interested in the social, even the propaganda, angle of painting. . .. I am interested in creating a style of painting that is much more powerful, that will take in the technical end and at the same time, say what I have to say. Paint is the only weapon I have with which to fight what I resent.”
As a social realist he depicted the downtrodden, to advocate for their equity, social mobility, and the perseverance of ordinary working people. Throughout his life he created works with a visual language of power and gestural eloquence, representing the soul beauty of a people at work and the injustices of human kind. They stand as defiant and proud figures, poetically fortified with justice for all oppressed people.
I’ve Been ‘Buked and I’ve Been Scorned, featured in the exhibit, shows a woman standing in a doorway, with a view through a narrow shack to an open window beyond. She is older, perhaps a grandmother. She seems to be telling us a story, perhaps her history. The figure is maternal and intimidating. As an artist, White seems to be saying that if we listen carefully to this person, we might get through to the other side and understand as a fellow human being that the trials and tribulations are similar in all our struggles.
White had an overwhelming concern for those living in poverty. His series of charcoal and mixed-media drawings called the “Wanted Poster Series” express his sensitivity to the misfortunes of others. The themes of this series of drawings are slavery, segregation, and man’s inhumanity to man. These subjects were inspired by the struggle for black equality led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Charles White received many awards, including a John Hay Whitney Fellowship in 1955, an award and exhibit from the national Academy of Design in New York in 1971, and a gold Medal from International Grafik, Berlin in 1977. He was honored posthumously at the White House by Jimmy Carter in 1980. And his work is included in many collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Library of Congress, the Hirschhorn, the Newark Museum, and the Oakland Art Museum, as well as in private collections.
In addition to the artworks of Charles White, this exhibit will also feature works and ephemera by those who carried White’s lessons into their own work. We will follow the trajectory of White’s students, exhibiting the works of artists such as Kerry James Marshall, David Hammons, as well as second generational influences of Alonzo Adams, Mequitta Ahuja, and Kadir Nelson. Third generational influences of White can be seen in works by Dionis and Jose Ortiz, Shervone Neckles, Emmanuel Massillon and Kyle Adams.
White’s influence has reached into many generations and can be seen from his students such as Kerry James Marshall but also clearly defined in even the younger more recent generations. Alonzo Adams’ Guardian is a clear reference to White’s J’Accuse #1. The regal Guardian is also reminiscent of White’s Wanted Posters with faces and hands lingering in the backgrounds. The Guardian protects all those who are present and hints at all those who have come before and bear witness to today. Adams, like White, uses his art to make statements of social and political events and atmosphere. His paintings, beautifully rendered, make bold statements while giving the message of knowledge as a gateway.
Exhibit and all programs for Charles White: Influences are free tot he public. Some programs required registration for seating or Zoom links. Pleases visit www.rocklandartcenter.org for more information.