“One-Way Ticket”: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Works

April 3–September 7, 2015
Museum of Modern Art
Special Exhibitions Gallery, third floor
11 West 53rd Street
Manhattan

An in-depth look at Jacob Lawrence‘s landmark 1941 painting series about the mass movement of African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North.

In 1941, Jacob Lawrence, then just 23 years old, completed a series of 60 small tempera paintings with text captions about the Great Migration, the multi-decade mass movement of African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North that started around 1915. Within months of its making, the series entered the collections of The Museum of Modern Art and the Phillips Memorial Gallery (today The Phillips Collection), with each institution acquiring half of the panels. Lawrence’s work is now an icon in both collections, a landmark in the history of modern art, and a key example of the way that history painting was radically reimagined in the modern era. One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North reunites all 60 panels for the first time at MoMA in 20 years.

Along with Lawrence’s series, the exhibition includes other accounts of the Migration from the era, including novels and poems by writers such as Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Richard Wright; music by Josh White, Duke Ellington, and Billie Holiday; photographs by Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, Gordon Parks, and Robert McNeill; sociological tracts by Carter Woodson, Charles Johnson, Emmett Scott, and Walter White; and paintings by Charles Alston, Romare Bearden, and Charles White. The range of works in the exhibition sheds light on the ways in which Lawrence drew upon and transformed contemporary models for representing black experience in America.

 

RONALD BUNN

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