This was a very luxurious, substantial multi-image, multi-page announcement and Opening Reception card for the exhibition, Charles White: Let the Light Enter held at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, January 10 - March 7, 2009. The Opening reception was held on Saturday January 10, 2009, 2:00 - 5:00pm.
This six sided, folded card featured as its cover illustration, Awaken from the Unknowing, a drawing of a young African American woman, studying, her copious papers spread across the table at which she reads and learns. The work was charcoal and Wolff crayon on paperboard, its dimensions being 31 x 56 inches/78.7 x 142.2 cm. Though Charles White: Let the Light Enter was accompanied with a substantial catalogue, this announcement/invitation card was in many respects a respectable publication in its own right.
The major text, across a page and a half of the publication, came from Andrea D. Barnwell's 2002 monograph on Charles White. Extracts as follows:
...Although White was spared the Jim Crow laws of the south, he grew up in a divided city, where he still had to contend with racism. At age fourteen, White read Alain Locke's The New Negro, which sparked a sense of pride and a passion for black American history, but caused problems for him at school who labeled him a troublemaker for questioning their Eurocentric curriculum. In 1934 and 1935, he won scholarships to study art, and both times, when White and his mother showed up in person to claim the scholarships, they were told they were no longer available to white. Finally, in 1937, White earned and actually received a scholarship to attend the Art Institute of Chicago. the following year, he joined the WPA, first as an easel painter and then in the mural division. However, even within this government-sponsored program, black artists had to fight for equal opportunities.
...With the rise of McCarthyism after World war II, the FBI had begun a surveillance file on White. Although he never joined the Communist party, White's political inclinations and friendships with leftist artists and/or intellectuals eventually led to his being called to testify at the hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Fortunately, for mysterious reasons, White was just as suddenly informed that his testimony was no longer needed. Undaunted, White continued to advance a politics of struggle in his art, celebrating historical figures who resisted slavery, such as Truth and Harriet Tubman, and depicting ordinary black farmers, preachers, mothers, and other workers with an unwavering strength and a silent, solid grace. In 1952, White began doing this in large works on paper. Executed in charcoal and sepia tones, these drawings, linocuts, and woodcuts depicted African American subjects in monumental, rounded forms. White received various awards over the next several years, including a grant from the American Academy of arts and Letters and a John Hay Whitney Fellowship. In 1956, poor health caused him to leave New York for southern California, where he and Frances remained, eventually adopting two children, Jessica and Ian.
The brochure featured reproductions of four of White's works, including the previously mentioned Awaken from the Unknowing. There was also a small archival photograph of White on the first page of Barnwell's text, standing in front of the drawing that many years later, would lend its name to the title of the exhibition - Let the Light Enter, 1961. Alongside the photograph, above Barnwell's text, is the following capitalised quote from White:
"I AM INTERESTED IN THE SOCIAL, EVEN THE PROPAGANDA, ANGLE IN PAINTING; BUT I FEEL THAT THE JOB OF EVERYONE OF EVERYONE IN A CREATIVE FIELD IS TO PICTURE THE WHOLE SCENE...
I AM INTERESTED IN CREATING A STYLE THAT IS MUCH MORE POWERFUL, THAT WILL TAKE IN THE TECHNICAL END AND AT THE SAMNE TIME WILL SAY WHAT I HAVE TO SAY.
PAINT IS THE ONLY WEAPON I HAVE WITH WHICH TO FIGHT WHAT I RESENT. IF I COULD WRITE, I WOULD WRITE ABOUT IT. IF I COULD TALK, I WOULD TALK ABOUT IT. SINCE I PAINT, I MUST PAINT ABOUT IT."
The Barnwell text and the White quote both also appear in the catalogue for Charles White: Let the Light Enter held at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, January 10 - March 7, 2009.