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Monday, August 17, 2015

Jacob Lawrence and the great race migration

One of the highlights of my summer was attending the exhibition at MoMA NY of Jacob Lawrence's great migration paintings of 1941, called ONE WAY TICKET. It was well attended, and even the first lady, Michele Obama, showed up at closing time!

Lawrence and his wife
A series of small 60 tempera on panel works, each came with a caption described by the artist himself. Lawrence aged 23 and working in Harlem, spent a lot of time doing research in the local library on his series. He documents the great "multi-decade movement of African Americans from the rural south to the urban north". His previous work had been a series on Toussaint L'Ouverture, the liberator of Haiti. In both this and the previous series Lawrence included text to be hung like captions in the news for each of the paintings, and he ordered each to be seen in a sequence. In this way his work is both filmic and media driven.

Along with the exhibition  of the paintings that have not been seen together in 20 years, the museum has included other artistic accounts of the great migration with inclusion of novels, poems, music, photography, and sociographic reports of the time. The exhibition is rich and multi layered and I left it with a new awareness of the trials and tribulations of co-existence in this land called the United States!
This rare gem of a show is up through September 7th.

the exhibition entry graph showing increasing populations in northern cities over time
so much to see

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