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SCAD symposium highlights Harlem Renaissance artist Jacob Lawrence’s work, influence

  • Jacob Lawrence; “Wounded Man,” 1968; gouache on paper; 29 ½ x 22 in.; collection of Dr. Walter O. and Linda J. Evans; © 2017 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, Seattle/Artists Rights Society, New York
  • Jacob Lawrence; “Woman with Veil,” 1937; tempera on brown paper; 17 x 13 ½ in.; collection of Dr. Walter O. and Linda J. Evans; © 2017 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence; Foundation, Seattle/Artists Rights Society, New York
  • Jacob Lawrence; Figure Study after Vesalius , c. 1977; graphite on paper; 11 x 8 ½ in.; collection of Dr. Walter O. and Linda J. Evans; © 2017 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, Seattle/Artists Rights Society, New York
 

SCAD symposium highlights Harlem Renaissance artist Jacob Lawrence’s work, influence

11 Oct 2017

Artist Jacob Lawrence was a Renaissance man.

Though he came of age in New York just after the peak of the Harlem Renaissance, he was very much part and parcel of its zeitgeist. Lawrence was “discovered” at 23 when his “Migration Series,” a 60-panel sequence of narrative paintings depicting the northern migration of African Americans from the south, was exhibited to national acclaim. Lawrence went on to establish himself as one of the preeminent artists of his generation.

Though Lawrence’s primary medium was painting, he was also known as an educator, storyteller, interpreter and quintessential chronicler of the American experience. His influence is apparent in countless different areas and the current exhibition on view at SCAD Museum of Art, “Lines of Influence,” illuminates the many ways his impact is felt throughout the art world and beyond.

In addition to numerous mesmerizing works by Lawrence himself, the exhibition also includes a selection of his contemporaries like Romare Bearden, Augusta Savage, Richmond Barthé and Horace Pippin. It also includes captivating work from artists working today in a similar vein like the always extraordinary Kara Walker, Faith Ringgold and Njideka Akunyili Crosby, as well as work specifically commissioned for the exhibition by Derrick Adams, Meleko Mokgosi, Barbara Earl Thomas and Hank Willis Thomas.

In addition to the exhibit itself, SCAD is hosting a symposium on Oct. 19 and 20 that includes a variety of video screenings, panel discussions, performances and lectures related to Lawrence’s work. As SCAD’s head curator of exhibitions Storm Janse van Rensburg explains, the purpose of the two-day symposium is to explore not just the legacy of Lawrence’s influence, but also the path forward that he helped chart.

“I want us to think about place and connect to history,” says van Rensburg. “But again to also open it up into thinking about the contemporary and our future, too. How do we engage history as a living thing and talk to young people, our students and visitors about that?

“How do we think about and look at Jacob Lawrence today? What’s his impact? What’s his legacy? And also, art historically, what is his position?”

Thursday’s portion of the symposium begins with a tribute video screening at 2 p.m. followed by a performance by Masud Olufani at 2:30 p.m. The performance will be followed by a keynote lecture by art historian Patricia Hills titled, “The Moral Compass of Jacob Lawrence/Why Black Artists Matter” at 3 p.m. Then at 4 p.m., a panel discussion will be held with artists Hank Willis Thomas and Meleko Mokgosi. A public reception will follow, with the night ending in a performance by Derrick Adams in collaboration with SCAD students.

Friday morning, the symposium continues with an exhibition tour at 9 a.m. with artists Barbara Earl Thomas, Aaron Fowler, Derrick Adams and Mokgosi, followed by a screening of the short film “Moonrising,” directed by Terence Nance. The day continues with a lecture by art historian and curator Julie Levin-Caro and concludes with a panel discussion with Fowler, Adams and Thomas, moderated by van Rensburg.

“He had such an amazing personal history,” van Rensburg says of Lawrence. “At a very early age, he hit the ‘big time’ so to speak. He was one of the first real break-out African American artists… And he was part of the fabric of Harlem in a really amazing way.”

IF YOU GO

What: “Lines of Influence” symposium

When: Oct. 19-20

Where: SCAD Museum of Art, 601 Turner Blvd.

Cost: Free

Info: scadmoa.org

SCHEDULE

Oct. 19
2 p.m.
Introduction and welcome
Storm Janse van Rensburg, head curator of SCAD exhibitions

2:10 p.m.
Remarks
Dr. Walter O. Evans, president of the Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation

2:20 p.m.
Jacob Lawrence tribute
Video screening

2:30 p.m.
"Blocked at Five Points" 
Performance by SCAD alumnus Masud Olufani (M.F.A., sculpture, 2013)

3 p.m.
"The Moral Compass of Jacob Lawrence/Why Black Artists Matter" 
Keynote lecture by Patricia Hills, Ph.D., professor emerita, American and African American Art, Boston University
Introduction by Storm Janse van Rensburg

4 p.m.
"History and Iconography: The Power of Image" 
Panel discussion with artists Hank Willis Thomas and Meleko Mokgosi
Moderated by Kimberly Drew, art curator and social media manager for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

5:30 p.m.
Exhibition reception
SCAD Museum of Art Lobby

7 p.m.
"The Builders, 1947"
Performance by exhibiting artist Derrick Adams in collaboration with SCAD students, commissioned by SCAD Museum of Art

Oct. 20
9 a.m.
Exhibition tour 
With artists Barbara Earl Thomas, Aaron Fowler, Derrick Adams, Meleko Mokgosi and Dr. Walter O. Evans

10 a.m.
Introduction and welcome

10:05 a.m.
"Moon Rising" by Moon Medicine
Video screening

10:15 a.m.
"Jacob Lawrence at Black Mountain College, Summer 1946"
Lecture by Julie Levin-Caro, Ph.D., Warren Wilson College
Introduction by Masud Olufani

11:15 a.m.
"Anecdotal Evidence: Remembering Jacob Lawrence" 
Panel discussion with exhibiting artists Aaron Fowler, Derrick Adams and Barbara Earl Thomas
Moderated by Storm Janse Van Rensburg

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