“Jacob Lawrence: Three Series of Prints – Genesis, Hiroshima and Toussaint L’Ouverture” will be on view at the Heckscher Museum of Art August 19 through November 5. The exhibition features 31 color prints created by the renowned African American artist Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) between the years of 1983 and 2000.
“Jacob Lawrence: Three Series of Prints” brings together three important series of limited edition prints created during the last few decades of the artist’s life.
The series provide insight into Lawrence’s interest in visual storytelling and his ability to address grand subjects with an economy of artistic means. They are evidence the artist’s ability to mine historical subject matter to address contemporary concerns. And they reflect the artist’s ongoing attempt to explore the nature of humanity and to make sense of the mysteries of life.
As an American artist of African descent, Lawrence’s success is remarkable. During the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, when the art world was as segregated as the Jim Crow South, he was the only African American artist to exhibit regularly in mainstream galleries and museums. His widespread visibility inspired younger generations of nonwhite artists, many of who have called him a “beacon.” Equally as important, he introduced images of African American history and culture into the pantheon of art history.
At a time when abstract art reigned supreme, Lawrence’s work was representational. His embrace of epic narrative subjects, such as the life of Harriet Tubman, ran counter to the prevailing trends. These aspects of his work coupled with its simplified modern look and compositional complexity captured and held the interest of curators, collectors and critics alike. His “Migration of the Negro” from 1941, a series of 60 paintings that depict the northern migration of African Americans from the South during World War I, is commonly credited as one of the most important works of the Twentieth Century.
This exhibition was curated by Peter Newbett, editor of Jacob Lawrence, the Complete Prints (1963-2000), the catalogue raisonné and the founding director of the Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation. The works in the exhibition come from the collection of Alitash Kebede of Los Angeles.
The museum is in Heckscher Park, Main Street (Route 25A) and Prime Avenue. For information, www.heckscher.org or 631-351-3250.