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19th Anniversary 126 www.afamag.com | www.incollect.com Fig. 5: Jacob Lawrence (1917–2000), Olympic Games, 1971. Screen print on paper, 42½ x 27½ inches. © 2018 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Fig. 6: Jacob Lawrence (1917–2000), Revolt on the Amistad , 1989. Silkscreen on paper, 40⅛ x 32⅛ inches. © 2018 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Printmaking also allowed Lawrence to experiment with a variety of media and techniques, including drypoint, etching, silkscreen, and woodcut (Fig. 3). The exhibition offers viewers a firsthand look at the subtle details and range of textures produced over the course of the artist’s printmaking ventures that are often lost in photographic reproductions. These range from energetic lines, like those in Two Rebels , to concise, stenciled, geometric figures, like those in The 1920’s . . . The Migrants Arrive and Cast Their Ballots (Fig. 4). Whereas the former example echoes the chaos, violence, and emotional turbulence of the scene portrayed in its approach, the latter emphasizes the flattened picture plane and Cubist elements that marked his style. Regardless of the technique explored, storytelling remained central to Lawrence’s work. As its title suggests, History, Labor, Life is organized thematically, focusing on the narrative aspect of the artist’s work instead of tracing his technical progression. Three major categories — history, labor, and life — accommodate the breadth of subject matter he portrayed and include African American and African diaspora histories (Figs 5, 6), as well as scenes of everyday life and the artist’s memories of growing up in Harlem. Regular visits to the library, for instance, were a major part of Lawrence’s life from a young age. “I was encouraged by my teachers to go to the library, all of us were…and it became a living experience for us,” he recalled of his childhood. “I would hear stories from librarians about various heroes and heroines. The library in my day was a very important part of my life.” 2 The Schomburg Branch of the New York Public Library (today, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture) was particularly important to the artist’s career, as it was where he conducted research for The Migration of the Negro . Although Schomburg Library and The Library (Figs. 7, 9) allude to everyday activity, the prints appear alongside his renderings of builders and construction (Figs. 8, 10) in the “labor” section of the exhibition. The exhibition’s broad, overarching categories encourage visitors to consider each theme in its many forms; labor, for instance, encompasses manual labor as well as intellectual labor and the artistic process. At Schomburg Library, Lawrence also read about many of the figures portrayed in his historically themed works — Harriet Tubman, John Brown, and Toussaint L’Ouverture, among them.
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