July 22, 2014

Weekly Dose of Art: "Bronzeville By Night" by Archibald Motley Jr

When: 1949
Where: Bronzeville, Chicago
What Kanye West once said about Chi-town: "And what I loved most she had so much soul" comes alive in this painting by Archibald Motley Jr. The center of the African American party scene in Chicago's South Side was the infamous neighborhood of Bronzeville. This jazz era neighborhood was full of characters that moved from the south into the urban areas of the north. While a major center for this movement was Harlem in New York, Chicago's colored population also exploded during this time. The visitors soon became staples in Bronzeville. 
The artist, Archibald Motley Jr, originally born in New Orleans, worked in Chicago and attended the Art Institute of Chicago . He captured the jazzy excitement (pun intended since it was the jazz era) of  African Americans literally becoming a part of the city streets, as they even share the same shade of blue. This midnight blue served as a great base to depict the nightlife that defined the party scene that Bronzeville became. The imagery presented is the type that you could imagine while bumping a Common song.
The colors and the style play trumpet notes in your mind as the smooth talking, fly dressin' fellas spit their 1940s game at the dressed up ladies, probably with "What’s buzzin’, cousin?" or a "Hi-de-ho." You could spot all the characters who still exist in the modern age: there's the thug with his hands in his pockets, the player with the chick in the red dress, and the wild cat who drank too much with his hands up in the air in the back. We'd bet you this scene could challenge the infamous saying "there ain't no party like a Diddy party."
Learn more about Archibald Motley and his unique view on Chicago in this short documentary: