African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond, 2012
Hale Woodruff first grew interested in African art in the 1920s, when an art dealer gave him a German book on the subject. He couldn’t read the text, but enjoyed looking at the images; on a trip to Europe a few years later he bought African sculpture for a collection of his own (Hale Woodruff, 50 Years of His Art, Exhibition Catalogue, 1979). For this painting, he divided the canvas into rough rectangles, then filled each shape with an emblem inspired by Ashanti gold weights. These were used in traditional Ashanti culture to measure the weight of gold dust and were decorated with illustrations of folktales, proverbs, and social rituals. The bold black outlines and dashes of color stand out from the blue background, creating an abstract pattern that reflects the artist’s African heritage.
Luce Object Quote
“I think all art, if it’s worth its salt, has got to be universal . . . Now it can be black art; it can be yellow art; white art; anything . . . But if it’s worth its while, it’s also got to be universal in its broader impact and its presence.” Woodruff interview, Archives of American Art, quoted in Hale Woodruff, 50 Years of His Art, Exhibition Catalogue, 1979
- Not on view
18 x 22 in. (45.7 x 55.9 cm.)
- Credit Line
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred T. Morris, Jr.
- Mediums Description
- oil on linen
- Object Number
- Linked Open Data
- Linked Open Data URI