This exhibition reunites Jacob Lawrence’s revolutionary 30-panel series Struggle . . . from the History of the American People (1954–56) for the first time since 1958.
One of the greatest narrative artists of the 20th century, Lawrence (1917–2000) is best known for The Migration Series (1940–41), exhibited at SAM from January 21 through April 23, 2017, which told the story of the mass exodus of African Americans from the rural south to the industrial North following World War II. Struggle is likewise a narrative work in series and engages key moments from the American Revolution and the early decades of the republic to address, as Lawrence put it, “the struggles of a people to create a nation and their attempt to build a democracy.” The 30 12- x 16-inch panels that comprise Struggle feature the words and actions of not only the founding fathers, but also of enslaved people, women, and Native Americans to address the diverse but mutually linked fortunes of all American constituencies engaged in the struggle. Taken as a whole, this remarkable series of paintings interprets and expresses the democratic debates that defined early America and still resonate today.
New work created for the exhibition by Derrick Adams, Bethany Collins, and Hank Willis Thomas reinforce the timeliness of Struggle by engaging themes such as democracy, justice, truth, and the politics of inclusion.
Image: We have no property! We have no wives! No children! We have no city! No country! —petition of many slaves, 1773, Panel 5, 1955, Jacob Lawrence, from Struggle: From the History of the American People, 1954–56, Collection of Harvey and Harvey-Ann Ross, © 2019 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.