Feinsteing writes: "Like the Italian masters who depicted scenes from the Bible, Lawrence created extended narrative cycles. He chose to chronicle the stories of normal citizens like himself—largely invisible in the art of the time—and situate them in the history of America. Daily lives, street scenes, and people at play, at worship, and at work feature prominently. So do historical narratives of slaves ... and the mass migration of black people from Southern farms to factories in the North and Midwest. Lawrence created a vernacular visual history, much of which is still missing from history textbooks today."
Blood writes: "Lawrence conceived the Migration Series as a single work composed of 60 parts ... He began by writing the captions, which were then edited by his wife Gwendolyn Knight, and then proceed to prepare all the panels with gesso and laid in the composition. As a young artist working on a limited budget, he chose inexpensive materials: pencil, ink, tempera and hardboard. Thanks to an artist’s grant, he was able to rent a studio large enough to let him view and work on all 60 paintings simultaneously. To ensure the formal cohesion of the project, Lawrence began with the darkest colours and applied them to each canvas before progressing to the next pigment. Working in this way allowed him to maintain the visual and spiritual unity of the project, and the clear repetition of colour across the panels creates a sense of movement and rhythm."
Smith writes: "By chance 'Legends' coincides with the Museum of Modern Art’s sweeping survey 'Inventing Abstraction: 1910-1925,' which traces the development of a largely geometric form of abstraction, mostly by European and Russian artists who often worked in closely related styles. In comparison the Whitney’s display might almost have been subtitled 'Inventing American Modernism, One Sensibility at a Time.' The artists here impress you as talented loners working toward diverse and much messier notions of modernity. To be sure, they take tips from European styles, but they also free themselves from such influences with highly personal responses to the sights and subjects specific to this country — the rawness of its landscapes, the tawdriness of its cities, as well as its folk art, social mores and racism. Sometimes they are working toward abstraction, sometimes not."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.