Charles White

A Retrospective

Oct 7, 2018–Jan 13, 2019

MoMA

Charles White. Sound of Silence. 1978. Color lithograph on paper, 25 1/8 × 35 5/16" (63.8 × 89.7 cm). Publisher: Hand Graphics, Ltd. Printer: David Panosh. The Art Institute of Chicago. Margaret Fisher Fund. © 1978 The Charles White Archives
  • MoMA, Floor 3

“Art must be an integral part of the struggle,” Charles White insisted. “It can’t simply mirror what’s taking place. … It must ally itself with the forces of liberation.” Over the course of his four-decade career, White’s commitment to creating powerful images of African Americans—what his gallerist and, later, White himself described as “images of dignity”—was unwavering. Using his virtuoso skills as a draftsman, printmaker, and painter, White developed his style and approach over time to address shifting concerns and new audiences. In each of the cities in which he lived over the course of his career—Chicago, New York, and, finally, Los Angeles—White became a key figure within a vibrant community of creative artists, writers, and activists.

White’s far-reaching vision of a socially committed practice attracted promising young artists, including many artists of color, and he became one of the 20th century’s most important and dedicated teachers. Acclaimed contemporary artists David Hammons and Kerry James Marshall were among his many students: as Marshall reflected, “Under Charles White’s influence I always knew that I wanted to make work that was about something: history, culture, politics, social issues. … It was just a matter of mastering the skills to actually do it.”

Charles White: A Retrospective is the first major museum survey devoted to the artist in over 30 years. The exhibition charts White’s full career—from the 1930s through his premature death in 1979—with over 100 works, including drawings, paintings, prints, photographs, illustrated books, record covers and archival materials.

In the audio below, hear WQXR radio host Terrance McKnight's conversation with Harry Belafonte about his relationship with Charles White and their commitment to celebrating and advancing black culture. McKnight also paired music and other audio with selected works from the exhibition, and you can scroll down to listen to his full playlist.

Charles White: A Retrospective is organized by Esther Adler, Associate Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints; and Sarah Kelly Oehler, Field-McCormick Chair and Curator of American Art, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Prior to its MoMA presentation, the exhibition will be on view at The Art Institute of Chicago from June 8 through September 3, 2018. Following its MoMA presentation, the exhibition will travel to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where it will be on view from February 17 through June 9, 2019.

The exhibition is supported at The Museum of Modern Art and at The Art Institute of Chicago by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Major support for the New York presentation is provided by The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Kathy and Richard S. Fuld, Jr., and by The Dian Woodner Exhibition Endowment Fund.

Generous funding is provided by The Friends of Education of The Museum of Modern Art.

Additional support is provided by the Annual Exhibition Fund with major contributions from the Estate of Ralph L. Riehle, Alice and Tom Tisch, Mimi and Peter Haas Fund, Brett and Daniel Sundheim, Karen and Gary Winnick, The Marella and Giovanni Agnelli Fund for Exhibitions, and Oya and Bülent Eczacıbaşı.

MoMA Audio is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Publications

  • Charles White: Black Pope Hardcover, 64 pages
  • Grandpa and the Library: How Charles White Learned to Paint Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Charles White: A Retrospective Exhibition catalogue, Hardcover, 248 pages
  • 7 pages

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