Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist

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This audio guide highlights selected works in Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist. Curators Richard J. Powell, Carter Foster, and others provide additional commentary.

CARTER FOSTER: Welcome to _Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist_. I’m Carter Foster, Steven and Ann Ames Curator of Drawing, and curator of this exhibition at the Whitney Museum. We often associate the Jazz Age in the United States with Harlem. But as Motley’s career demonstrates, Chicago—among other American urban centers—was also a vital site for the renaissance in African American art after the Great Migration.

Near the entrance, you’ll see a self-portrait that Motley painted in 1933, when he was forty-two years old. Motley had studied painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; his self-portrait emphasizes his classical training as well as his personal refinement.

As you move into the first gallery, you’ll find other portraits that Motley made throughout his career. It was as a portraitist that Motley had his earliest critical and commercial successes. Looking around, you’ll see that he approached his sitters with a great deal of sensitivity, insight, and technical skill. As time went on, Motley widened his scope, chronicling Chicago’s South Side and other sites of black modernism. This exhibition presents us with an opportunity to recognize Motley’s great contribution to American art. Please enjoy your visit.