African-American art featured at Gray’s Auctioneers, May 15

Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) 'Seamstresses,' 1954, Tempera on board. Gray's Auctioneers image.

Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) ‘Seamstresses,’ 1954, Tempera on board. Gray’s Auctioneers image.

CLEVELAND – Gray’s Auctioneers’ Fine Art, Antiques and Decorative Arts Auction on Wednesday, May 15, features a number of stellar artworks by African-American artists. One such stunning piece is Lot 54, The Seamstresses, painted in 1954 by famed African-American artist and master of the Harlem Renaissance, Jacob Lawrence.

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Lawrence gained national acclaim as a painter while still a young man in his 20s when a portion of his work from the Migrations Series, a suite of paintings depicting the early 20th-century passage of African-Americans from the Deep South to the urban North, was featured in a 1941 issue of Fortune Magazine. His paintings illuminate the black and working class experience in the United States and he is recognized among the greats of African-American artists alongside Augusta Savage and Romare Bearden. The New York Times has called Lawrence “one of America’s leading modern figurative painters” and “among the most impassioned visual chroniclers of the African-American experience.”

In addition to this spectacular painting by Lawrence, Gray’s auction also highlights a collection of rare early screenprints by another great Harlem artist, Roy DeCarava. While the art world recognizes DeCarava primarily for his work in photography, these early screenprints illustrate the artist’s development of an introspective approach to art and dramatic exaggeration of reality with particular attention given to the African-American experience, for which he has been so praised. The collection of DeCarava’s works, which comprise lots 55 through 59 in the auction, includes as an intimate, close-up image of a male African-American youth and also a dynamic view of a Harlem tenement airshaft with suspended clotheslines. The artist’s wife and longtime collaborator, Sherry Turner DeCarava, once said of her husband, “Roy’s work was the expression of his personal and individual ethos and it was a sensibility that was classical in its visual construction and deeply empathic to the nuances and subtleties contained within the human heart.” These highly personal images also demonstrate DeCarava’s dynamic approach to composition that would progress naturally to the photographic medium.

Finally, Gray’s has included in this fine gathering of African-American artworks a fantastic collection of ceramics by Ohio-native artist Gene Gant. Regrettably, there is very little known about Gant and his career. He supposedly attended Kent State University in the 1970s and trained as a ceramicist in the School of Art under a primarily white faculty. According to some accounts, Gene’s talent earned him a surfeit of recognition from the local art establishment, much to chagrin of his more established and experienced professors. Gant was reportedly alienated by the department for his success to such an extent that he eventually left the university and abandoned his work. Though his story as an artist ended prematurely, one must only view Gant’s artworks to see that his accomplishments as a student ceramicist were well deserved. His pieces, which are offered in Gray’s auction as Lots 295 through 312, demonstrate his brilliant command of organic color, texture and form. Gray’s hopes to reignite interest in this forgotten artist and see recognition of both his name and his art restored.

The complete illustrated catalog for this auction can be found at GraysAuctioneers.com. Condition reports and shipping estimates are available upon request.

For more information contact Serena Harragin at 216-458-7695 or by email at serena@graysauctioneers.com.


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE


Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) 'Seamstresses,' 1954, Tempera on board. Gray's Auctioneers image.

 

Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) ‘Seamstresses,’ 1954, Tempera on board. Gray’s Auctioneers image.

Roy DeCarava (1919-2009) 'Adolescent (Close Up 1949),' screenprint in colors. Gray's Auctioneers image.

 

Roy DeCarava (1919-2009) ‘Adolescent (Close Up 1949),’ screenprint in colors. Gray’s Auctioneers image.

An earthenware centerpiece by Gene Gant (20th century), ca. 1970s.  Gray's Auctioneers image.

 

An earthenware centerpiece by Gene Gant (20th century), ca. 1970s. Gray’s Auctioneers image.