A RARE LOOK AT AN EPIC STRUGGLE
Thanks to a dynamic multidisciplinary effort headed up by Elizabeth Hutton Turner, Professor in the McIntire Department of Art, students and community members alike have a chance to experience firsthand the work of the African-American artist Jacob Lawrence (1917- 2000). An unprecedented yearlong exhibition at The Fralin Museum features 12 panels from the collection of Harvey and Harvey-Ann Ross of Lawrence’s last epic series: Struggle...From the History of the American People. The exhibition serves as the centerpiece of an ongoing series of academic and community outreach offerings that include courses, lectures and guided tours that explore the fascinating historical and cultural contexts of his work. Lawrence first came to prominence in the Harlem workshops of the 1930’s, and was among the first African Americans to break the color barrier in the highly segregated modern art world. His Struggle series, initially conceived to include sixty panels with accompanying texts, was intended to represent the history of African people in the United States, but was reimagined in 1954 as a “pluralistic saga” aimed at capturing a larger history of America, and the role immigrants played in its creation. The thirty completed panels were ultimately sold off individually, and it has therefore become an understudied aspect of Lawrence’s oeuvre. The Fralin exhibition, and related events coordinated by the McIntire Department of Art and community partners, attempt to rectify this omission in the Lawrence scholarship. Turner, who curated the exhibition, was joined in presenting it by fellow organizers Deborah E. McDowell of the Carter G. Woodson Center for African American and African Studies; Andrea Douglas of the Jefferson Heritage Center; and Bruce Boucher of The Fralin Museum. This exhibition is supported by the McIntire Department of Art, Mr. Harvey Ross, The Jacob Lawrence Foundation, the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at UVa, the Office of the Provost & Vice Provost for the Arts, the Page-Barbour Fund, the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, the Mary and David Harrison Institute for American History, Literature, and Culture, the Corcoran Department of History, and the Arts Council.