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Urban American Scenes: Works by John Sloan, Isabel Bishop and Jacob Lawrence


The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art's next exhibition, Urban American Scenes: Works by John Sloan, Isabel Bishop and Jacob Lawrence, features 64 works on paper selected from the Museum's permanent collection. The exhibition opens at the Johnstown Museum on April 10 and continues through July 11, 2004.

The etchings and serigraphs included in the exhibition were produced by three notable 20th century artists: John Sloan, Isabel Bishop and Jacob Lawrence. These artists became known for their poignant observations of their fellow man, engaged in ordinary, day-to-day activities, by documenting their struggles and triumphs, said SAMA Fine Arts Curator Dr. Graziella Marchicelli. The results of their creative efforts tell volumes about everyday existence from the past to present.

Sloan, whose works were among the first to be included in the Museum's permanent collection some 28 years ago, was born in Lock Haven and moved to Philadelphia early in his childhood. A self-described "spectator of life," Sloan devoted much of his career to capturing the variety and vitality of the world around him.

Sloan studied for a time at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts with painter Thomas Anshutz. He soon found the structure of academia too restrictive, however, and moved to New York in 1904. In the city, Sloan found himself in the company of fellow artists whom, too, believed in challenging the status quo of the academic art establishment. This group, referred to as "The Eight," was a strong force in promoting a gripping and staunchly truthful form of realism. The streets of New York ultimately provided Sloan with an endless spectacle of urban sights and activities, providing him with the subject matter that would help him further his talents and establish a career as a poignant, successful artist.

Like Sloan, Bishop focused much of her work on the urban life of New York City. Originally born in Cincinnati, Bishop grew up in Detroit and moved to New York at age 16 to study illustration. Her artwork focused on fashion and attitudes, female friendships, down-and-out men, and working-class women around Union Square. Her figures have been described as having a substance and dignity that sustains them. The artist, Reginald Marsh, observed, "Her people are what they are, no more, no less. But they are very much what they are. They never are what they are not; for her perception cuts to the truth. Her art is at once original and traditional."

Bishop's work was widely exhibited during her life, namely at the Berkshire Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Associated American Artists and the Midtown Galleries, New York City. She has received several awards, including an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award and an award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, presented by President Jimmy Carter. She also became the first woman to hold an executive position in the National Institute of Arts and Letters when she was appointed vice-president in 1946.

The son of a Pennsylvania coal miner, Jacob Lawrence was an African-American artist known for combining color, shape, history and sociology in order to create emotionally powerful images. His work focused on the lives of other African-Americans, depicting scenes of Depression-era Harlem to historical subjects, such as abolitionist, John Brown.

Lawrence participated in the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Arts Project for more than a year, studying with painter and sculptor Henry Bannarn. By the age of 24, he had become an artistic sensation with his Migration of the Negro series at New York's prestigious Downtown Gallery, making him the first African-American artist to be represented by a New York gallery. Perhaps Lawrence's crowning achievement came from his Legend of John Brown series, created in 1941. The series is often considered one of the most powerful depictions of Brown's life. In creating the works, Lawrence looked at the John Brown story in the context of the African-American struggle for equal rights of his own generation.

The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Johnstown is located in the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.


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