• October 7, 2018–January 13, 2019

Charles White: A Retrospective

Museum of Modern Art

11 West 53rd Street, New York, New York 10019

Charles White, Sound of Silence, 1978. Lithograph. The Art Institute of Chicago, Margaret Fisher Fund. © The Charles White Archives. © The Art Institute of Chicago.

“Art must be an integral part of the struggle,” Charles White insisted. “It can’t simply mirror what’s taking place. … It must ally itself with the forces of liberation.” Over the course of his four-decade career, White’s commitment to creating powerful images of African Americans—what he described as “images of dignity”—was unwavering. Using his virtuoso skills as a draftsman, printmaker, and painter, White developed his style and approach over time to address shifting concerns and new audiences. In each of the cities in which he lived over the course of his career—Chicago, New York, and, finally, Los Angeles—White became a key figure within a vibrant community of creative artists, writers, and activists.

White’s far-reaching vision of a socially committed practice attracted promising young artists, including many artists of color. He became one of the 20th century’s most important and dedicated teachers. Acclaimed contemporary artists David Hammons and Kerry James Marshall were among his many students: as Marshall reflected, “Under Charles White’s influence I always knew that I wanted to make work that was about something: history, culture, politics, social issues. … It was just a matter of mastering the skills to actually do it.”

Charles White: A Retrospective is the first major museum survey devoted to the artist in over 30 years. The exhibition charts White’s full career—from the 1930s through his premature death in 1979—with over 100 works, including drawings, paintings, prints, photographs, illustrated books, record covers, and archival materials. 

The exhibition is co-organized by The Art Institute of Chicago (where it was previously on view June 8–September 3, 2018) and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. It will travel to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in spring 2019.