Painting Harlem Modern: The Art of Jacob Lawrence

Univ. of California. Feb. 2019. 368p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780520305502. pap. $39.95. FINE ARTS
Hills (emerita, art history, Boston Univ.; Modern Art in the USA) ardently addresses the work of artist Jacob Lawrence (1917–2000) in this rerelease of a previously out-of-print 2010 title that details the context of the period and Lawrence's social influences during the 1930s–90s. Hills interprets the artist's narrative imagery and style with authority, including her own personal perspective. The topical layout is simple yet packed with heavily documented biographical sources, including interviews between Hills and the artist, and other principals. The work's attractiveness beckons with well-captioned, beautiful color plates telling black history stories that viewers may have missed. The author's style is approachable even as she reveals, for example, the complex sociopolitical circumstances and cultural struggles that contributed to the artist's realization of the universality of his themes.
VERDICT A must for those seeking an intimate documentation of the life and times of this first-class, popular artist. Hills expertly places her subject in history, with his tales of the champions as well as the commonplace.
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