“Charles White: A Retrospective is the first major exhibition dedicated to Charles White (1918–1979) in over three decades. Organized chronologically, the retrospective charts the entirety of White’s career, illuminating his socially motivated responses to the tumultuous events and cultural episodes that defined 20th-century American history. The exhibition’s roughly 100 drawings, paintings, and prints, along with additional ephemera, attest to White’s continually developing body of work, and serve as a model for the active role art can play in contemporary society.
The exhibition includes representative work from the three artistic centers in which White lived, created, and taught throughout his life: Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. It begins with early paintings and murals White made for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in Depression-era Chicago, where he grew up. Shortly thereafter, between 1942 and 1956, White lived mainly in New York City, teaching drawing, exhibiting at the progressive ACA Gallery on 57th Street, and supporting the Committee for the Negro in the Arts in Harlem. A selection of White’s personal photographs, also on view in the exhibition, capture his life in New York, while the inclusion of his work for album covers, publications, film, and television emphasize his dedication to more accessible distribution outlets for his art. The presentation concludes with the inventive output from his last decades as an internationally established figure and influential teacher in Los Angeles during the 1960s and ’70s.” — MoMA
Charles White. Folksinger. 1957. Ink on board. 52 × 34″ (132.1 × 86.4 cm). Collection Pamela and Harry Belafonte © 1957 The Charles White Archives. Photo Credit: Christopher Burke Studios
Charles White. Five Great American Negroes. 1939. Oil on canvas, 60 x 155″ (152.4 x 393.7 cm). From the Collection of the Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.© The Charles White Archives/ Photo: Gregory R. Staley
Charles White. Love Letter II. 1977. Color lithograph, 30 1/8 × 22 7/16″ (76.5 × 57 cm). The Art Institute of Chicago, Margaret Fisher Fund. © The Charles White Archives/ © The Art Institute of Chicago
Charles White. Love Letter III. 1977. Color lithograph. 30 1/16 x 22 5/8″ (76.3 x 57.4 cm). The Art Institute of Chicago. Margaret Fisher Fund. © The Charles White Archives/ © The Art Institute of Chicago
Charles White. Preacher. 1940. Tempera on board. 30 × 21 1/2″ (76.2 × 54.6 cm). The Davidsons, Los Angeles, California. © 1940 The Charles White Archives. Photo Credit: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California.
Charles White. Headlines. 1944. Ink, gouache, and newspaper on board, 20 x 16″ (50.8 x 40.6 cm). Collection of William M. and Elisabeth M. Landes. © The Charles White Archives/ Photo: Gregory R. Staley
Charles White. Soldier. 1944. Tempera on Masonite. 30 × 25″ (76.2 × 63.5 cm). The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Gift of Sandra and Bram Dijkstra. © The Charles White Archives/ © Courtesy of the Huntington Art Collections, San Marino, California
Charles White. Our Land. 1951. Egg tempera on panel, 24 x 20″ (61 x 50.8 cm). Private Collection. © The Charles White Archives/ Photo: Gavin Ashworth. Courtesy Jonathan Boos
Charles White). Work (Young Worker). 1953. Wolff crayon and charcoal on illustration board, 44 × 28″ (111.8 × 71.1 cm). Private collection. Photo: Christopher Burke Studio © The Charles White Archives/ Charles White (American, 1918-1979).
Charles White. Harvest Talk. 1953. Charcoal, Wolff’s carbon drawing pencil, and graphite, with stumping and erasing on ivory wood pulp laminate board. 26 × 39 1/16″ (66 × 99.2 cm). The Art Institute of Chicago. Restricted gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert S. Hartman. © 1953 The Charles White Archives.
Charles White. Ye Shall Inherit the Earth. 1953. Charcoal on paper, 36 x 26″ (99.1 x 66 cm). Private Collection. © The Charles White Archives/ Courtesy Princeton University Art Museum
Charles White. J’Accuse #7. 1966. Charcoal on paper, 39 1/4 × 51 1/2″ (99.7 × 130.8 cm). Private collection. © The Charles White Archives/ Photo courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY
Charles White. General Moses (Harriet Tubman). 1965. Ink on paper, 47 × 68″ (119.4 × 172.7 cm). Private collection. © The Charles White Archives. Photo courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries
Charles White. Harriet. 1972. Oil on board. 53 5/16 × 47 1/4″ (135.4 × 120 cm). John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies, The University of Texas at Austin. © The Charles White Archives/ Photo: Paul Bardagjy
Charles White. Black Pope (Sandwich Board Man). 1973. Oil wash on board. 60 × 43 7/8″ (152.4 × 111.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Richard S. Zeisler Bequest (by exchange), The Friends of Education of The Museum of Modern Art, Committee on Drawings Fund, Dian Woodner, and Agnes Gund. © 1973 The Charles White Archives. Photo Credit: Jonathan Muzikar, The Museum of Modern Art Imaging Services
Charles White. Sound of Silence. 1978. Printed by David Panosh, Published by Hand Graphics, Ltd. Color lithograph on paper. 25 1/8 × 35 5/16″ (63.8 × 89.7 cm). The Art Institute of Chicago. Margaret Fisher Fund. © 1978 The Charles White Archives.
Charles White: A Retrospective is organized by Esther Adler, Associate Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints, MoMA; and Sarah Kelly Oehler, Field-McCormick Chair and Curator of American Art, The Art Institute of Chicago. The exhibition was on view at The Art Institute of Chicago from June 8 through September 3, 2018, and following its MoMA presentation it will travel to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), where it will be on view from February 17 through June 9, 2019.
Images courtesy The Museum of Modern Art.