Thursday, November 05, 2015

Archibald Motley. Jazz Age Modernist. Whitney Museum

While you're at the Whitney checking out the spectacular spectacle Frank Stella show, be sure to take the elevator up to the 8th floor and see the beautiful Motley show of paintings. Motley was an African American artist (who by the way I never heard of) who was part of the Harlem Renaissance but spent a lot of time in Chicago along with stays in Paris and Mexico. His paintings are rich with bright colors, crowded compositions and pointed commentary about African American life during the early part of the 20th century. He was married to a white woman and his early portraits of her both dressed and undressed are superb. Also terrific are his paintings of jazzy hot times night out on the town scenes, which are crowded and rich in colors and people. He sometimes verged on children's book like paintings and regionalism especially calling to mind Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry. The final painting in the show which he worked on for nearly ten years (1963-1972) is his most political painting and although very heart felt was a little too obvious for me.


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