Charles White: A Retrospective

Museum of Modern Art
New York, NY, USA
7 October 2018 – 13 January 2019

The Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago present the first major museum exhibition of Charles White’s oeuvre in over 30 years, covering the full breadth of his career with over 100 multidisciplinary works, the exhibition features drawings, paintings, prints, photographs, and contextual ephemera.

Beginning in the late 1930s and concluding with White’s premature death in 1979, the exhibition features a detailed overview of his work over a four-decade span of enormous change in the US that provided a constant wellspring of subject matter for the artist. The presentation reveals White as a responsive visual strategist who was open to exploring styles and techniques inspired by contemporary art and culture, and a savvy interpreter of an evolving political climate. White’s commitment to figuration, to directly addressing the social and political concerns of his time, and to mastering mediums that allowed for wide circulation of his art established him as a major figure, and one with significant influence on his peers and followers.

The exhibition is organized chronologically, with groupings centered on the cities and creative communities in which White lived and worked. Each section will be supported by relevant ephemera and supporting materials detailing White’s working process, political and social activities, and role as a teacher.

Charles White: A Retrospective is organized by Esther Adler, Associate Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints; and Sarah Kelly Oehler, Field-McCormick Chair and Curator of American Art, Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute and MoMA will co-publish a comprehensive, fully illustrated catalogue to accompany the exhibition, including essays by curators from each participating institution, as well as Kellie Jones, Associate Professor in Art History and Archaeology and the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS) at Columbia University, and Deborah Willis, University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. MoMA also recently published the book Charles White: Black Pope, which provides a concise overview of White’s career and an in-depth exploration of the monumental late drawing Black Pope (Sandwich Board Man) (1973), which entered the Museum’s collection in 2013.

SPONSORSHIP: Charles White: A Retrospective is part of Art Design Chicago, an exploration of Chicago’s art and design legacy, an initiative of the Terra Foundation for American Art with presenting partner The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

The exhibition is supported at The Museum of Modern Art and Art Institute of Chicago by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

The Terra Foundation for American Art is dedicated to fostering exploration, understanding, and enjoyment of the visual arts of the United States for national and international audiences. Recognizing the importance of experiencing original works of art, the foundation provides opportunities for interaction and study, beginning with the presentation and growth of its own art collection in Chicago. To further cross-cultural dialogue on American art, the foundation supports and collaborates on innovative exhibitions, research, and educational programs. Implicit in such activities is the belief that art has the potential both to distinguish cultures and to unite them.