Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist

BCAM, Level 3
October 19, 2014–February 1, 2015

Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist presents a full-scale survey of one the most important artists of the Harlem Renaissance, featuring the painter's visual examination of African American culture during the Jazz Age. The exhibition covers Motley's entire career, including periods in Chicago, Paris, and Mexico. Motley received his formal training at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and went on to create strong and somewhat solemn portraits of his community, as well as vividly hued, lively scenes of crowded dancehalls that reflect the colorful spirit of the Harlem Renaissance. The exhibition features a number of paintings depicting the black communities of Chicago and Paris just before and after the Great Depression, and concludes with introspective moments of quotidian life in Mexico, made during the artist's travels during the 1950s.

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Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist was organized by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. This exhibition is made possible by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor.
 

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

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.

 

 

 

The painter's voice, humor, and observations

Richard J. Powell, Professor of Art and Art History at Duke University and curator of this exhibition, describes and contextualizes Archibald Motley's distinct voice in portraying Chicago's burgeoning African-American culture around the 1930s. 

Video