Cultural Activity Report

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One of the most interesting topics in my HUM 112 class was on Harlem Renaissance and Jazz Age. The interwar period is a unique period in American Art History.  It was a time that saw local and international and modern and anti-modern take center stage. With my love for art, I choose to visit an art gallery that would focus on Harlem Renaissance and Jazz Age themes. After conducting research, I settled for Howard University Gallery of Art. The gallery has a collection of portraits and other artworks on African American history. With the availability of the artwork, I would be able to focus easily on themes that emerged during the Harlem Renaissance era and Jazz Age.

To explore my interest in African American experience, I made my visit to the gallery on 3 rd June 2016 with the company of a friend. On arrival, the art gallery was filled with people entering and leaving the exhibition hall. The exhibition hall had plentiful artwork hanging on the wall ranging from pencil paintings to oil paintings. Strolling through the exhibition hall, a guide offered to assist us in finding the artwork of our interest. We explained our mission as we were led to the gallery with African American themed portraits.

The first artwork to capture my attention was named Saturday night by J. Motley. It was an old artwork dated 1935 painted on canvas medium.  The artwork captured my attention due to the use of vibrant colors and a layering of figures.  It portrays the artist’s musical and performance aspect of African American culture. The artist virtually excavates the emotional and rhythmic dimensions of black performance.  The guide explained that the artist was versatile in his aesthetic style and was particularly committed to scrutinizing African-American culture. From my observation, Motley was a uniquely daring and sharp artist whose artwork stood out among the Harlem Renaissance themed art.

He was described as one of the initiators in the depiction of black life. Saturday night is an artwork that portrays the scenes of a nightclub crowded with revelers. The music is almost audible due to the artificial lighting effects and jarring spatial distortion in the nightclub which provide a visual rhythm to the art.  The Saturday night scene is complete with a bar, bartenders, and dancers. The band is far in the background and the room soaks in the vermilion light. The energy fills the place with smartly dressed revelers chatting and preening.  The guide explained that Motley had learned much about color, composition, and painting allowing him to push everything through an expressionist filter.

The guide led us to the second artwork by Aaron Douglas. The artwork named creation is considered one of the most influential arts of the Harlem Renaissance. Creation was painted in 1935 and features an African setting with a hand extending to the background.   The guide described Aaron Douglas as an African American modernist who had the ability to bring together drawings, paintings, prints, and illustrations. The abstract art style was influenced by many factors including African Art.  The artwork is unique as it combines traditional African American imagery, cubist rhythms, and deco style.  Aaron Douglas bold paintings opened doors for African American artists in Harlem and had a significant impact on American modernism. He, therefore, became known as the artist of Harlem Renaissance.

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