Archibald John Motley, Jr.

Gettin' Religion
1948

On view
Floor 7

Artist
Archibald John Motley, Jr.

Title
Gettin' Religion

Date
1948

Classification
Paintings

Medium
Oil on linen

Dimensions
Overall: 32 × 39 7/16 in. (81.3 × 100.2 cm)

Accession number
2016.15

Credit line
Purchase, Josephine N. Hopper Bequest, by exchange

Rights and reproductions information
© Valerie Gerrard Browne



Audio

  • Where We Are, Spanish

    Archibald Motley, Gettin' Religion, 1948

    Archibald Motley, Gettin' Religion, 1948

    0:00

    Davarian Baldwin: Toda la pieza está bañada por una suerte de azul profundo y llega al punto máximo de la  gama de lo que considero que es la posibilidad del Negro democrático, de lo sagrado a lo profano.

    Narrador: Davarian Baldwin, profesor Paul E. Raether de Estudios Americanos en Trinity College en Hartford, analiza la escena callejera, Gettin’ Religion, que Archibald Motley creó en Chicago.

    Motley estudió pintura en la Escuela del Instituto de Arte de Chicago. Aquí, el artista representa una escena nocturna bulliciosa en la ciudad:  

    Davarian Baldwin: En verdad plasma las calles de Chicago como incubadoras de las que podrían considerarse formas culturales híbridas, tal y como la música góspel surge de la mezcla de sonidos del blues con letras sagradas. Aquí se podría ver, literalmente, un sonido tal, una forma de devoción, emergiendo de este espacio, y pienso que Motley es mágico por la manera en que logra capturar eso. Pero, al mismo tiempo, se aprecia cierta caricatura en la obra.

    El caballero a la izquierda, arriba de la plataforma que dice "Jesús salva", tiene labios exageradamente rojos y una cabeza calva y negra con ojos de un blanco brillante; no se sabe si es una figura juglaresca de Minstrel o un Sambo, o si Motley lo usa para hacer una crítica sutil sobre las formas religiosas más santificadas, espiritualistas o pentecostales. El espectador no sabe con certeza si se trata de una persona real o de una estatua de tamaño natural. Creo que algo que escapa al público es que sí, Motley fue parte de esa época, de una especie de realismo visual que surgió en las décadas de 1920 y 1930. Sin embargo, Motley fue sobre todo una suerte de  pintor negro surrealista que estaba entre la firmeza de la documentación y lo que yo llamo ‘la velocidad de la luz del sueño’. 

  • Where We Are

    Archibald Motley, Gettin' Religion, 1948

    Archibald Motley, Gettin' Religion, 1948

    0:00

    Davarian Baldwin: The entire piece is bathed in a kind of a midnight blue, and it gets at the full gamut of what I consider to be Black democratic possibility, from the sacred to the profane.

    Narrator: Davarian Baldwin, the Paul E. Raether Professor of American Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, discusses Archibald Motley’s street scene, Gettin’ Religion, which is set in Chicago.

    Motley had studied painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Here, he depicts a bustling scene in the city at night.  

    Davarian Baldwin: It really gets at Chicago's streets as being those incubators for what could be considered to be hybrid cultural forms, like gospel music that came out of the mixture of blues sound with sacred lyrics. You could literally see a sound like that, a form of worship, coming out of this space, and I think that Motley is so magical in the way he captures that. But the same time, you see some caricature here.

    The gentleman on the left side, on top of a platform that says, "Jesus saves," he has exaggerated red lips, and a bald, black head, and bright white eyes, and you're not quite sure if he's a minstrel figure, or Sambo figure, or what, or if Motley is offering a subtle critique on more sanctified, or spiritualist, or Pentecostal religious forms. You're not sure if he's actually a real person or a life-sized statue, and that's something that I think people miss is that, yes, Motley was a part of this era, this 1920s and '30s era of kind of visual realism, but he really was kind of a black surreal painter, somewhere between the steady march of documentation and what I consider to be the light speed of the dream.

  • Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist

    Archibald J. Motley Jr., Gettin’ Religion, 1948

    Archibald J. Motley Jr., Gettin’ Religion, 1948

    0:00

    Narrator: Davarian Baldwin discusses another one of Motley’s Chicago street scenes, Gettin’ Religion. 

    Davarian Baldwin: Here, the entire piece is bathed in a kind of a midnight blue, and it gets at the full gamut of what I consider to be black democratic possibility, from the sacred to the profane. In the middle of a commercial district, you have a residential home in the back with a light post above it, and then in the foreground, you have a couple in the bottom left-hand corner. Then in the bottom right-hand corner, you have an older gentleman, not sure if he's a Jewish rabbi or a light-skinned African American.

    Like I said this diversity of color tones, of behaviors, of movement, of activity, the black woman in the background of the home, she could easily be a brothel mother or just simply a mother of the home with the child on the steps. You're not quite sure what's going on. It really gets at Chicago's streets as being those incubators for what could be considered to be hybrid cultural forms, like gospel music that came out of the mixture of blues sound with sacred lyrics. You could literally see a sound like that, a form of worship, coming out of this space, and I think that Motley is so magical in the way he captures that. But the same time, you see some caricature here.

    The gentleman on the left side, on top of a platform that says, "Jesus saves," he has exaggerated red lips, and a bald, black head, and bright white eyes, and you're not quite sure if he's a minstrel figure, or Sambo figure, or what, or if Motley is offering a subtle critique on more sanctified, or spiritualist, or Pentecostal religious forms. You're not sure if he's actually a real person or a life-sized statue, and that's something that I think people miss is that, yes, Motley was a part of this era, this 1920s and '30s era of kind of visual realism, but he really was kind of a black surreal painter, somewhere between the steady march of documentation and what I consider to be the light speed of the dream.



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