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  New Artistic Directions
In the summer of 1946 Lawrence was invited by artist and director  Josef Albers to teach at  Black Mountain College in North Carolina. According to Lawrence, Albers was the first person "outside the community" to have a significant artistic influence on him. Through his exposure to Albers’ work, Lawrence began to understand more analytically the devices he already used—making a two-dimensional picture plane appear three-dimensional, changing colors' meanings by using them in different forms, and juxtaposing organic movement and geometric shapes.

  In 1949 Lawrence voluntarily sought help for depression at Hillside Hospital in Queens, New York. His hospital paintings during this time show a marked departure from his other works. The people in these paintings are resigned, their facial features agonized; the colors are mixed and subdued. His eleven month's at Hillside gave Lawrence a fresh perspective on Harlem and the subjects of his earlier works. He began visiting theatrical productions, and in 1951 created a new body of work based on his memories of performances at the  Apollo Theater on 125th Street.

During the 1950s, Lawrence’s art developed greater psychological depth due to the influence of many elements. This depth is expressed through greater layering of patterns and increased use of shadow and light. With the publication of  Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man in 1952, many Americans became aware of how inescapable the notions of visibility and invisibility were for African Americans. During this time, Lawrence addressed issues of identity by using mask's as a metaphor.
Jacob Lawrence, 1950s. Photograph by William Grigsby
Artwork © Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, courtesy of the Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation

©2002 Whitney Museum of American Art