Thursday, January 30, 2014
Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist, the first retrospective of the American artist’s paintings in two decades, will originate at the Nasher Museum, starting a national tour.
Motley is one of the most significant yet least visible 20th-century artists, despite the broad appeal of his paintings. Many of his most important portraits and cultural scenes remain in private collections; few museums have had the opportunity to acquire his work. With a survey that spans 40 years, Archibald Motley introduces his canvases of riotous color to wider audiences and reveals his continued impact on art history.
Archibald Motley includes 45 works from each period of Motley’s lifelong career, from 1919 to 1960. 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 on view together for the first time. The exhibition will be on view through May 11, 2014.
Archibald John Motley, Jr. (1891-1981), was born in New Orleans and lived and worked in the first half of the 20th century in a predominately white neighborhood on Chicago’s Southwest side, a few miles from the city’s growing black community known as “Bronzeville.” In his work, Motley intensely examines this community, carefully constructing scenes that depict Chicago’s African American elites, but also the worlds of the recently disembarked migrants from the South and other characters commonly overlooked.
Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist is made possible by the Terra Foundation for American Art; the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor; and the Henry Luce Foundation. Major support is provided by the Wyeth Foundation for American Art; Drs. Victor and Lenore Behar; the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources; and Deborah DeMott. Additional generous support is provided by Graduate Liberal Studies at Duke University, the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, Erickson Advisors, Parker and Otis, Lisa Lowenthal Pruzan and Jonathan Pruzan, Richard Tigner, Gail Belvett, the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, Mindy and Guy Solie, The Chronicle, C.T. Woods-Powell and Richard J. Powell, and Angela O. Terry. This project is made possible in part by funding from the North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
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IMAGE: Archibald J. Motley Jr., Black Belt, 1934. Oil on canvas, 33 x 40.5 inches (83.8 x 102.9 cm). Collection of the Hampton University Museum, Hampton, Virginia. © Valerie Gerrard Browne.