In 1999, the important publication, African Americans in Art: Selections from The Art Institute of Chicago was published. Alongside reproductions of said works, the publication featured essays by Colin L. Westerbeck, Amy M. Mooney, Andrea D. Barnwell and Kirsten P. Buick, Daniel Schulman, and Cherise Smith. Several of these scholars were joined by others, who penned the “Portfolio Entries” that occupied an important proportion of the publication.
A detail from Charles White’s majestic Harvest Talk occupied the cover of African Americans in Art: Selections from The Art Institute of Chicago, and a reproduction of the work appeared on page 70. The “Portfolio” Entry was written by Andrea D. Barnwell, who, in 2002, would go on to author the first monograph on White in around 35 years. (Unbelievably perhaps, by the turn of the 21st century it had been well over thirty years since the last major publication on Charles White (that being his 1967 monograph, Images of Dignity). In 2002 Pomegranate Publications published its first instalment of The David C. Driskell Series of African American Art, Charles White, written by Andrea D. Barnwell. It was in many respects the most comprehensive monograph to date on the celebrated, late Los Angeles-based African-American artist Charles White.) Barnwell’s notes in African Americans in Art: Selections from The Art Institute of Chicago, on Harvest Talk, included the following:
White, whose father was a railroad and steel worker and mother a domestic worker, has a deep respect for labor. Harvest Talk, one of six charcoal and carbon pencil drawings originally exhibited at the ACA Galley in New York in 1953, exemplifies the artist’s mature drawing style. Here his strong, assured manner, coupled with the heroic proportions of the figures and the emphasis on the large scythe, evokes the indomitability of his subjects in the face of hard work. The presence of the scythe (an emblem often associated with the Soviet Union), as well as the social realist sensibilities that prevail throughout White’s oeuvre, his travels to the U.S.S.R. (where he exchanged ideas with Russian artists), and his writings for and affiliation with left-wing publications (such as Masses & Mainstream, Freedomways, and the Daily Worker) suggest that Harvest Talk was inspired by socialist ideals. Like many of White’s works on paper, Harvest Talk conveys the power of a mural, despite its relatively small format.