Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist, the first retrospective of the American artist’s paintings in two decades, ends on Sunday, May 11 at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
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 the artist’s canvases of riotous color to wider audiences and reveals his continued impact on art history.
The exhibition includes 42 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 presented together for the first time.
Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist is accompanied by a richly illustrated exhibition catalogue with critical texts by scholars Davarian L. Baldwin, David C. Driskell, Olivier Meslay, Amy M. Mooney and critically acclaimed poet, essayist and novelist Ishmael Reed. The catalogue is published by the Nasher Museum and distributed by Duke University Press.
Several programs are slated now through the exhibitions close on May 11 that support the various themes of the exhibition.
On Thursday, May 1 from 6 to 9 p.m. hip-hop and jazz quartet The Beast’s performance will tell the story of African American music against the backdrop of art by Archibald Motley. With African American music from spirituals to hip-hop. The talk will be led by Pierce Freelon. Performing original songs, as well as standards from the spiritual, jazz, and hip-hop canon, The Beast will introduce visitors to their revolutionary new style of music while paying homage to the musicians who came before them. http://www.thebeastmusic.com/ . The gallery talks starts at 6 p.m., followed by a performance in the lecture hall at 7 p.m.
The last film in the Archibald Motley Film Series is Thursday, May 8 from 7 to 9 p.m. The third and final installment of the Archibald Motley film series is a night of “Chicago Rhythm ‘n’ Blues,” with the film Cadillac Records (2008, 108 minutes), a fictionalized account of Chess Records with Beyoncé as Etta James. The film is free.
Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist will travel to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas (June 14 – September 7, 2014); the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (October 19, 2014 – February 1, 2015); the Chicago Cultural Center (March 6 – August 31, 2015) and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (Fall 2015).
For more information visit http://nasher.duke.edu/motley/