Untitled

Media - 2016.38.24 - SAAM-2016.38.24_2 - 142642
Copied Ulysses Davis, Untitled, 1942, carved and painted wood, inlaid with sand, Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Margaret Z. Robson Collection, Gift of John E. and Douglas O. Robson, 2016.38.24

Artwork Details

Title
Untitled
Date
1942
Dimensions
10 14 × 20 12 × 2 in. (26.0 × 52.1 × 5.1 cm)
Credit Line
The Margaret Z. Robson Collection, Gift of John E. and Douglas O. Robson
Mediums Description
carved and painted wood, inlaid with sand
Classifications
Keywords
  • Architecture Exterior — domestic — house
  • Landscape — road
Object Number
2016.38.24

Artwork Description

Davis made utilitarian items such as tables and canes, imaginative sculptures, and decorative pieces that defy easy description, like this untitled scene of houses and trees—part hanging picture, part carved box. The cane seen here shows a serpent crawling toward a bearded man with dark, wavy hair and thick eyebrows: a Moses figure portrayed with distinctly Black features. In the Book of Exodus, God sends poisonous snakes to punish those who complained about his judgment of their sins with a fatal bite. Yet he also showed mercy, by giving Moses the power to heal the bitten: “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a snake image and mount it on a pole. When anyone who is bitten looks at it, he will recover.’ So Moses made a bronze snake and mounted it on a pole. Whenever someone was bitten, and he looked at the bronze snake, he recovered.”
(We Are Made of Stories: Self-Taught Artists in the Robson Family Collection, 2022)

Exhibitions

Media - 2016.38.43R-V - SAAM-2016.38.43R-V_2 - 126225
We Are Made of Stories: Self-Taught Artists in the Robson Family Collection
July 1, 2022March 26, 2023
We Are Made of Stories: Self-Taught Artists in the Robson Family Collection traces the rise of self-taught artists in the twentieth century and examines how, despite wide-ranging societal, racial, and gender-based obstacles, their creativity and bold self-definition became major forces in American art. The exhibition features recent gifts to the museum from two generations of collectors, Margaret Z. Robson and Douglas O. Robson.