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**CHARLES WHITE: CELEBRATING THE GORDON GIFT** September 7 – December 1, 2019 The University of Texas at Austin is honored to be the home of twenty-three works of art by Charles White, one of the twentieth century’s most accomplished and innovative draftsmen. This exhibition, which celebrates the artist’s career and legacy, was made possible by a generous gift of artworks from White’s close friends, Drs. Susan G. and Edmund W. Gordon of Pomona, New York. Born in 1918 in Chicago, White dedicated his life and artistic practice to creating a visual archive of the black experience in the United States. Fighting against widely circulating racist and grotesque representations of black people, White created images of African Americans endowed with “truth, dignity, and beauty.” White was also an influential arts educator. He believed that education is crucial to fostering a more just society, particularly by opening doors for young people of color. He taught at numerous institutions throughout his career, including community centers in Chicago and Harlem; an interracial summer camp in New Jersey; Hampton University in Virginia, and Howard University in Washington, DC. He made his deepest impact, however, at the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, where he taught from 1965 until his death at age sixty-one in 1979. There he trained many of today’s most highly regarded artists, including David Hammons and Kerry James Marshall. Marshall recounts studying with White as being nothing short of a “life-altering experience.” The Charles White exhibition is collaboratively organized by the Blanton Museum of Art and the Art Galleries at Black Studies. Concurrent exhibitions were on view here at the museum and at the Christian-Green Gallery on campus. The Blanton’s exhibition featured White’s drawings and prints alongside work by those in his circle and reveals the impact of White’s artistic output on pop culture and representations of black life. The Christian-Green Gallery exhibition considered White’s legacy and influence on contemporary artists, especially those interested in the human figure, including Deborah Roberts and Vincent Valdez. Support for this exhibition is provided in part by Ellen and David Berman.

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**SOCIAL REALISM** Social Realism is an artistic movement popularized in the 1930s that responded to the sociopolitical and economic upheaval of the period. This gallery examines themes of prejudice and class inequalities in artworks produced by Charles White and a racially diverse group of like-minded contemporaries during the Great Depression and New Deal, World War II, and the early Cold War. The era’s hard times inspired a new generation of artists who identified with poor and working-class African Americans and regarded themselves as cultural workers in step with the prevailing left wing. White and artists such as Harry Sternberg, Fletcher Martin, and John Biggers used a social realist approach to draw critical attention to issues such as lynching, legal discrimination, segregation, ghettoization, and stifling unemployment. White believed that art could be used as an instrument of social critique and an agent of interracial working-class coalition building. In 1978 he stated, “Art must be an integral part of the struggle. It can’t simply mirror what’s taking place. . .The fact is, artists have always been propagandists. I have no use for artists who try to divorce themselves from the struggle.”

John Biggers Gastonia, North Carolina, 1924 – Houston, Texas, 2001 *Harvesters*, 1950 LithographBlanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of Robert and Carol Straus © Visual Artists and Galleries Association, Inc. In this drawing of exhausted field workers, John Biggers captures the dignity and sorrow of Depression-era subsistence farmers. In the 1940s, Biggers witnessed black sharecroppers lose their precarious footing in southern agriculture as cotton prices dropped and planters resorted to mechanical cotton pickers. As Biggers explained, “I’m trying to portray working people. I drew people I knew about. I knew the characteristics of hard-working people.” In 1942, White was artist-in-residence at Hampton Institute (now University), a historically black college in Virginia, where he taught drawing to Biggers and enlisted him as a studio assistant. *Harvesters* demonstrates Biggers’ commitment to illustrating the working conditions of black people in the American South and the influence of his teacher and mentor, who similarly endowed his black subjects with poise and dignity.

Charles White Chicago, Illinois, 1918 – Los Angeles, California, 1979 *Can a Negro Study Law in Texas*, 1946 Charcoal and ink, with white heightening on paper Collection of the Units of Black Studies, The University of Texas at Austin ©The Charles White Archives *Can a Negro Study Law in Texas* monumentalizes Heman Sweatt, an African American civil rights activist whose landmark lawsuit challenged the “separate but equal” doctrine used by The University of Texas at Austin to deny Sweatt admission to its School of Law. In May 1946, Sweatt filed Sweatt v. Painter, a case against Theophilus Painter, the UT president, and the university in the county court. A four-year legal fight, the case eventually made its way to the US Supreme Court, which decided that UT Austin would have to admit qualified black applicants into its law school. In the fall of 1950, Sweatt registered for classes at The University of Texas at Austin School of Law. Though small and frail in reality, Sweatt is depicted by White as an imposing figure. The exaggerated scale of Sweatt’s limbs suggest the tremendous strength he summoned for the exhausting legal battle he faced in an era when African Americans rarely prevailed in court. By stark contrast, White satirizes Sweatt’s opponents as overweight, foolish-looking members of the white elite. The New Masses, a magazine associated with the Communist Party in the United States, commissioned White to make this work. In the original drawing Sweatt holds a lightning bolt in his hand extended toward the trio, echoing the way the finials of the gate point at them in a deliberate, menacing fashion. Although the lightning bolt was ultimately removed, there is no denying White’s admiration for Sweatt and determination to capture his triumphant victory.

Fletcher Martin Palisade, Colorado, 1904–Guanajuato, Mexico, 1979 *Down for the Count*, 1936–1937 Oil on canvas Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of Mari and James A. Michener Fletcher Martin painted this smoky social realist boxing scene to symbolize the condition in which African Americans lived during the Depression. Martin spent his early career in California with Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros, whose influence is traceable here both in palette and in the artist’s empathy for oppressed African Americans. Martin produced *Down for the Count* after participating in the American Artists’ Congress in February 1936, during which many artists drew parallels between European fascism and racism in America. Martin’s works often feature men in conflict or experiencing trauma, even those that date to before his time as an artist-correspondent for *LIFE* magazine during World War II. Here Martin used linear perspective not only to create dramatic depth, but also to clearly demonstrate that these men are not on a level playing field.

Charles White Chicago, Illinois, 1918 – Los Angeles, California, 1979 *Sidewalk of New York*, 1938 – 1942 Gelatin silver print Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Purchase through the generosity of the Charina Endowment Fund © The Charles White Archives Charles White is best known for his drawings and prints of African American subjects past and present; however, photography played a crucial role in his artistic process. Throughout his career, White relied on photographs as source material. When he moved from Chicago to New York in 1942, he continued his practice of photographing scenes of everyday life—newsstands, salespeople, pedestrians, musicians, shoppers, and street vendors like the one seen here in Sidewalk of New York. White himself identified closely with the working class, through both his Marxist political education and his own personal experience—his mother was a domestic worker, and early in life he worked as a cook, bellhop, and sign painter. Despite the harsh realities experienced during the Great Depression in New York, White’s photographs document the resilience of African Americans and offer an inclusive view of society.


Blanton Museum of Art Virtual Visit imagery is for educational use only. Copying, modifying, reprinting, distributing, or any other unauthorized use is prohibited. All works of art are registered trademarks and/or copyrights of their respective trademark and copyright holders.

Thomas Hart Benton Neosho, Missouri, 1889–Kansas City, Missouri, 1975 *Romance*, 1931–32 Egg tempera, gesso, and oil varnish glazes on board Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of Mari and James A. Michener © T.H. Benton and R.P. Benton Testamentary Trusts/UMB Bank Trustee/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

**Charles White: Celebración de la Donación Gordon** 7 de septiembre–1 de diciembre de 2019 La Universidad de Texas en Austin tiene el honor de albergar veintitrés obras de arte de Charles White, uno de los dibujantes más destacados e innovadores del siglo XX. Esta exposición, que celebra la carrera y el legado del artista, ha sido posible gracias a una generosa donación de obras de arte por parte de los amigos cercanos de White, los Dres. Susan G. y Edmund W. Gordon de Pomona, Nueva York. Nacido en 1918 en Chicago, White dedicó su vida y su práctica artística a crear un archivo visual de la experiencia negra en los Estados Unidos. Enfrentándose a representaciones racistas y grotescas de la gente negra de gran circulación, White creó imágenes de afroamericanos dotadas de “verdad, dignidad y belleza”. Además, fue un influyente educador en el mundo de las artes. Creía que la educación era fundamental para fomentar una sociedad más justa, particularmente al abrir puertas a los jóvenes de color. White fue docente en numerosas instituciones a lo largo de su carrera, incluidos centros comunitarios en Chicago y Harlem; un campamento de verano interracial en Nueva Jersey; la Universidad de Hampton en Virginia y la Universidad de Howard en Washington D.C. Sin embargo, el mayor impacto lo ejerció en la Escuela Otis de Arte y Diseño de Los Ángeles, donde dictó clases desde 1965 hasta su muerte a los sesenta y un años de edad en 1979. Allí capacitó a muchos de los artistas más destacados en la actualidad, incluidos David Hammons y Kerry James Marshall. Marshall recuerda sus estudios con White como no menos que una “experiencia trascendental.” La exposición de Charles White esta organizada colaborativamente con el Blanton Museum of Art y las galerías de arte en los Estudios Afroamericanos. Se llevan a cabo exposiciones simultáneas aquí en el museo y en la Galería Christian-Green del campus. La exposición del Blanton presenta dibujos y grabados de White junto con obras de otros artistas de su círculo, y revela el impacto de la producción artística de White sobre la cultura popular y las representaciones de la vida de los negros. La exposición de la Galería Christian-Green considera el legado y la influencia de White sobre los artistas contemporáneos, en especial aquellos interesados en la figura humana, entre los que se cuenta a Deborah Roberts y Vincent Valdez. Esta exposición recibe en parte el apoyo de Ellen y David Berman.

(image not available) John Biggers Gastonia, North Carolina, 1924–Houston, Texas, 2001 *Aunt Dicy and Family Migrating to Lee County*, 1955 Conté crayon on paper Gift of Mr. and Mrs. C.B. Smith, Harry Ransom Center John Thomas Biggers Art Collection © Visual Artists and Galleries Association, Inc.

**REALISMO SOCIAL** El realismo social es un movimiento artístico popularizado en los años 30, que surgió como respuesta a la agitación sociopolítica y económica de la época. Esta galería analiza los temas del prejuicio y las desigualdades de clase en obras de arte producidas por Charles White y un grupo racialmente diverso de contemporáneos que compartían sus ideas, en la época de la Gran Depresión y el New Deal, la Segunda Guerra Mundial y los inicios de la Guerra Fría. Los difíciles momentos vividos en aquel periodo inspiraron a una nueva generación de artistas, que se identificaban con los afroamericanos pobres y de clase trabajadora, y se consideraban trabajadores culturales en sintonía con las fuerzas de izquierda dominantes. White y otros artistas como Harry Sternberg, Fletcher Martin y John Biggers emplearon el realismo social para llamar la atención sobre cuestiones como los linchamientos, la discriminación legal, la segregación, el confinamiento en guetos y el asfixiante desempleo. White creía que el arte podía utilizarse como instrumento de crítica social y como agente de construcción de coaliciones interraciales en las clases trabajadoras. En 1978 afirmó: “El arte debe ser una parte integral de la lucha. No puede simplemente reflejar lo que está ocurriendo… La realidad es que los artistas siempre han sido propagandistas. No entiendo a los artistas que intentan separarse de la lucha”.

(image not available) Charles White Chicago, Illinois, 1918–Los Angeles, California, 1979 *Freedomways*, 1980 Magazine Eddie Chambers Archive In the wake of Charles White’s death, *Freedomways* — an African American journal of politics and culture that chronicled the civil rights and black freedom movements from the 1960s through the 1980s—dedicated a special volume to the life and legacy of the artist. Dr. Edmund W. Gordon, a preeminent psychologist and scholar, one of the journal’s contributing editors, and long- time friend of White, spearheaded the collection of heartfelt testimonials and reflections on White as an artist, educator, friend, father, husband, and mentor. Contributors to the issue included visionaries such as Benny Andrews, Eldzier Cortor, Margaret Burroughs, Nikki Giovanni, Romare Bearden, John Biggers, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Lorraine Hansberry, and White’s wife, Frances Barrett. Alaine Locke introduced Gordon to White in 1946, and the two became inseparable friends in 1952. Working alongside and in parallel with each other, Gordon and White were committed to changing the prevailing impressions of African Americans, advancing social justice, and transforming public and social institutions into vehicles for equality and opportunity.

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