The Obamas love the art of Willam H. Johnson--and so will your museum visitors.
On Tuesday, October 6, the White House announced the list of artworks that will now grace their famous walls, and Johnson is prominently featured. In a happy coincidence, SITES is launching a new exhibition, William H. Johnson: An American Modern, a collection of 20 extraordinary paintings that span the artist's career, from the James E. Lewis Museum of Art at Morgan State University.
Four works by the 20th-century American artist were included on the Obamas' list--all painted around 1944, and all on loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
A pivotal figure in modern American art, Johnson (1901-1970), was a sophisticated virtuoso in many media and techniques, and trained in the US and Europe. His work was a conscious response to the prevailing conventions of refinement, taste, and artistic beauty. In works he did late in his career, such as the four now hanging in the White House, Johnson used flat, elongated human forms in bold shapes of intense color, flanked by seemingly simple curves and lines. In so much of his art, his broad visual vocabulary disguised the complexity of his "simplicity,"-- to many, his works are considered a bold reclamation of an African American aesthetic.
--Teresa Gionis, SITES writer/editor
William Johnson, "Aunt Alice," c.1940 Courtesy Morgan State University