The University of Texas is launching two exhibitions to show its holdings of work by Charles White, who devoted his virtuoso skills as a draftsman, printmaker, and painter to representing African Americans and everyday African American culture in a realistic style.
“Charles White and the Legacy of the Figure: Celebrating the Gordon Gift” is on view at the Art Galleries at Black Studies Aug. 28 to Nov. 30. Concurrently, the Blanton Museum of Art presents “Charles White: Celebrating the Gordon Gift” on view from Sept. 7 to Dec. 1.
The exhibitions are accompanied by a catalogue — “Charles White: The Gordon Gift to The University of Texas” — published by Tower Books, an imprint of UT Press.
UT is one of the more significant repositories of the White’s work thanks in part to a 2014 gift from Drs. Susan G. and Edmund W. Gordon. The Gordon’s collection — 23 drawings and prints as well as a rare large-scale painting — is now jointly stewarded jointly by Black Studies and the Blanton. A prominent psychologist and expert in education, Edmund W. Gordon is a professor emeritus at both Yale and Columbia universities. His wife Susan G. Gordon is a pediatrician.
“Lifelong friends, the Whites and Gordons were dedicated to advocating for children, education, and equity for Black people,”said Cherise Smith, chair of the African and African Diaspora Studies Department and the founding executive director of the Art Galleries at Black Studies. “We hope visitors (to these exhibitions) will take home a new-found appreciation of White’s significant contribution to 20th-century art.”
At Black Studies’ Christian-Green Gallery, “Charles White and the Legacy of the Figure” examines White’s influence on younger generations of artists who have engaged the realist tradition of portraying the human body that he championed. Included in the exhibition is work by noted artists Belkis Ayón, John Biggers, Elizabeth Catlett, Robert Pruitt, Deborah Roberts, Kara Walker, and White’s former student, Kerry James Marshall.
The Blanton’s exhibition also includes work by artists other than White to foreground White’s his participation in larger social and political movements. In particular, the exhibition places White’s career-long interest in the human figure in dialogue with Mexican modernists and the social realists of the 1930s.
The Blanton exhibition also includes a section called “Black Lives Matter,” which frames White as an advocate for Black history and social equality. The section includes two large-scale drawings from White’s iconic “Wanted Poster Series” based on runaway slave posters and advertisements for slave auctions. “Functioning as poignant social commentary, these innovative drawings encapsulate the artist’s life-long commitment to make visible the systems that fueled slavery and made possible the subsequent subjugation of Black people,” said Phillip A. Townsend, the exhibition’s co-curator and the Susan G. and Edmund W. Gordon Family Fellow at the Blanton.
6:30 p.m. Oct. 8 at the Blanton. Artists’ talk: Deborah Roberts and Robert A. Pruitt on Charles White, moderated by Dr. Cherise Smith