When a Nasher Museum exhibition leaves Durham to travel, it opens the work to be seen in a completely new context. Every curator makes different choices, and the show’s aesthetic evolves from space to space. In the case of Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist, Chicago was a fitting stop for the exhibition’s tour— the artist himself was a Chicago native, and much of his artwork was influenced by his relationship with the city.
Held in the beautiful Chicago Cultural Center, the 42 oil paintings from Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist were hung on vividly colored walls that sectioned out the periods of Motley’s career from 1919-1960. Rich reds, blues, greens and purples pulled from the jazz-age palate of Motley’s paintings. The Chicago show gives a dynamic look at works that are inextricably linked with their geography.
“Motley’s scenes of life in the African-American community, often in his native Chicago, depict a parallel universe of labor and leisure. His portraits are voyeuristic but also genealogical examinations of race, gender and sexuality. Motley does not shy away from folklore fantasies; he addresses slavery and racism head on. The exhibition also features his noteworthy canvases of Jazz Age Paris and 1950s Mexico. Significant works will be presented together for the first time.”
The first retrospective of Motley’s paintings in two decades, Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist is showing March 7-August 31, 2015, at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., Chicago.