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Saturday, March 15, 2014

No. 1 for December 14, 2013

The Danforth Art Museum/School in Framingham, MA

Having been blown away by Jacob Lawrence's War Series back in October, seeing a listing for a series of paintings by him on The Legend of John Brown had me hopping on a commuter train to this unlikely destination (conveniently located near the train station, though). Perhaps due their being prints of too-delicate-to-display originals, the paintings come off a bit more flat then their brethren at the Whitney which are painted with tempura on composite board. Lawrence is very adept at depicting sorrow, pain and inner turmoil without showing faces, allowing some of the crudeness of the figures to not matter. The sometimes subtle, sometimes overt placement of crosses framing the characters of the painting got me thinking “why don't we have religious fanatics devoted to such noble causes these days."

As I always hope for when being drawn by a familiar name or work, there were a couple of new discoveries too.

The central gallery featured a large exhibition of works by Winfred Rembert, an artist who works with dye on carved and tooled leather, resulting in sort of tapestries with a fascinating use of colors and patterns. These are mostly depictions of 20th century African-American life – picking cotton, prison work gangs, “Harlem life” (for lack of a better term on my part). Rembert's inconsistent use of perspective takes some getting used to, for instance workers in the fields appear to lying down as if seen from above rather than gradually getting smaller as they extend into the distance. Certain persons are drawn out of the crowds and given strong personalities.

Another find was in a small gallery of Native American art, a painting by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith called Sovereign Nations. An image of the Treaty of Hellgate is covered in layers of varnish and a repeating tattered, white-stars-on-blue garment. A very powerful image. You can even buy a greeting-card type card for only fifty cents.

A pity on a Saturday afternoon I pretty much had the place to myself, the staff even seemed to feel like they were intruding on me as they passed.

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