Charles White

A Retrospective

Edited by Sarah Kelly Oehler and Esther Adler; With essays by Esther Adler, Ilene Susan Fort, Kellie Jones, Sarah Kelly Oehler, Mark Pascale, and Deborah Willis and a preface by Kerry James Marshall

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Out of Print

A revelatory reassessment of one of the most influential American artists of the 20th century 

Charles White (1918–1979) is best known for bold, large-scale paintings and drawings of African Americans, meticulously executed works that depict human relationships and socioeconomic struggles with a remarkable sensitivity. This comprehensive study offers a much-needed reexamination of the artist’s career and legacy. With handsome reproductions of White’s finest paintings, drawings, and prints, the volume introduces his work to contemporary audiences, reclaims his place in the art-historical narrative, and stresses the continuing relevance of his insistent dedication to producing positive social change through art.
Tracing White’s career from his emergence in Chicago to his mature practice as an artist, activist, and educator in New York and Los Angeles, leading experts provide insights into White’s creative process, his work as a photographer, his political activism and interest in history, the relationship between his art and his teaching, and the importance of feminism in his work. A preface by Kerry James Marshall addresses White’s significance as a mentor to an entire generation of practitioners and underlines the importance of this largely overlooked artist.  

Sarah Kelly Oehler is Field-McCormick Chair and Curator of American Art at the Art Institute of Chicago.


The Art Institute of Chicago

The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

“A first-rate catalogue . . . packed with exceptional reproductions of drawings, prints, murals, and photographs shared publicly for the first time. Scholars and artists alike will discover White’s bold talents in this well-documented exploration of an artist whose powerful messages still speak to us loud and clear.”—Library Journal

“With a gripping introduction by White’s former student Kerry James Marshall, a detailed life chronology, superb plates, and expert essays on various aspects of White’s towering work, this magnificent volume belongs in every in every American art collection.”—Donna Seaman, Booklist

“White was a key figure as an artist and citizen in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Engaging and insightful essays shed light on critical aspects of his life and contributions, including his murals and depictions of history and historic figures, mastery as a draftsman and printmaker, the centrality of women in his work, his activism, and influence as a teacher.”—Victoria L. Valentine, Culture Type

”The exhibition catalog reinforces just how remarkable the appearance of these three artists in a museum was at the time, positioning White as an important but nonetheless exceptional figure in American culture.”—M. H. Miller, T: The New York Times Style Magazine
ISBN: 9780300232981
Publication Date: June 19, 2018
Publishing Partner: Distributed for the Art Institute of Chicago
248 pages, 9 x 12
193 color + 20 b/w illus.
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