Harlem Renaissance: Jacob Lawrence's Ambulance Call
In this way, Lawrence's family was a part of "The Great Migration," a period in the earliest decades of the last century when more than a quarter million African-Americans left their rural southern state homes to move to more free-thinking urban centers such as New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. This led to a cultural and intellectual heyday given the term "the Harlem Renaissance."
The movement woke up the blacks and gave them the bravery to fight to for their rights; it also woke up the whites to the creativity of the black people; more than that it scared them to reevaluate their attitude towards blacks. Whereas The Harlem Renaissance gives blacks a voice, it was the conscience of the whites.
The artist fills this piece with dark and tragic symbols so as to remind the viewers about the tragic past of his people. The devil-ish figures show that the artist feels very strongly about the cruelties of slavery and racism. A religious undertone to this visual nightmare is clear from the only item which crosses into our visual space – a crucifix. The crucifix hangs on the central bedpost, and appears to be directly in between the couple as they physically touch (Diamond, Anna, 2017). It shows that albeit the devils seem to be harassing the couple, they have faith that god will help them overcome it. Furthermore, Lawrence uses a palette of browns, bright red, yellow-orange, black, white, and blue, in order to create his figures as non-naturalistic color blocks with their limbs elongated, their torsos concealed beneath blocky clothing, and their facial features simplified to eyes and mere sad outlines of a nose and mouth. It combines the simplicity of African American Art with modern elements such as cubism. These compositional decisions are applied by the artist in order to eliminate extraneous background details that would take away from the poignant emotions of the narrative. The Artist’s most significant purpose behind creating this piece was to clear misconceptions about the heritage, and show the African Americans’ unity and zealousbess towards their race (Driskell, David C., 1994). Dreams by Jacob Lawrence strategically utilizes the principles of art, as well as themes of African American past, in order to inform the rest of the world about the uniqueness of the African-American culture, and at the same time inspire the African Americans to move forward from their horrendous past in an enlightened manner.
Diamond, Anna. “Why the Works of Visionary Artist Jacob Lawrence Still Resonate a Century After His Birth.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 5 Sept. 2017, www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/why-works-visionary-artist-jacob-lawr
Driskell, David C., et al. Harlem Renaissance: Art of Black America. Studio Museum in Harlem, 1994.
Harlem Renaissance.” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, edited by William A. Darity, Jr., 2nd ed., vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2008, pp. 424-426. Gale Virtual Reference Library, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3045300994/GVRL?u=powa9245&sid=GVRL&xid=833edb05. Accessed 13 Dec. 2018.
“Harlem Renaissance.” Literary Movements for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Literary Movements, edited by Ira Mark Milne, 2nd ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2009, pp. 335-373.