Art Criticism

In this artwork, the first things on sight are two people holding each others’ hands wide and dancing together. Though the picture looks small, the images of women painted in bright white and orange colors and men dressed in bright white and blue clothes vividly catches ones eye. The illuminating bright colors of light from the floor and the walls give the picture live. The venue is a night club. In the club, almost every one is black, beginning with the immediate man in the foreground, seated on the chair next to the table while holding a glass of a drink in his hand.  In the table, he is joined by another lady. He is black in a bluish suit with a reddish neck tie. The exuberant upbeat of energy in the club controls the atmosphere. Only a few people are seated like the black man and the women he is sharing the table with, another man behind the woman seated in a different table and a few women leaning on the counter. Others are dancing (The Art Institute of Chicago).  

The counter is at the far left of the background. Behind the counter is a man standing and in front of it is another one also standing and both are watching the dancing couples. Another man behind the counter is seen arranging or selecting bottles of may be alcohol on the shelves.  The rest of the people to the far right of the background are dancing. The pulsing movement of dancers in the club suggests the influence of jazz culture in this society.

In the paint, the jumping movements of the dancer convey the sound and the motion of jazz via color and composition (Otfinoski, 2003). Motley simplified the figures in the paint in geometric shapes. He emphasized on diagonal lines, which created a lively motion within the paint. The artist seems more fascinated by both artificial and natural light thus he selected glowing violet-red tones. The chose of color seems dominant thereby giving Motley a chance to express the great variety of numerous shades and colors among the African-Americans in the city of Chicago thereby making the artwork more realistic.

The content of this artwork is men and women dancing in a nightclub. The movement of people indicates that they are dancing in pairs of the opposite sex. Even those seated are mindful of their sex. The chose of colors and light indicates that time of the action is at night and people of the black origin have come to refresh themselves from the heavy duties of the day. They are drinking alcohol and enjoying the tune from jazz music, which every one seems comfortable with. The artist wants to erase the seeds of racism from the viewers’ mind (Otfinoski, 2003). In the paint, he emphasizes on erasing racism so that people can focus on themselves and enjoy life together as one. He used ball shapes to create human head, table, chair, and the floor; cylinders to join parts of the body like the hands, legs and neck in order to show body movements. These movements form the dancing tune which is an expression of enjoyment and happiness.

The artist, Motley was a painter from the African-American origin, born in 1891. He graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago with arts degree in 1918. While, in the institute, fellow students rioted focusing their anger on the modern display of the Armory Show (The Art Institute of Chicago). Armory Show was the collection of modern arts that were considered best. That is why he kept secret after graduation his modern and jazz influenced artworks for some time. Being light skinned and of racially mixed makeup, Motley, wrestled throughout his childhood for identify. He was neither black nor a white. He experienced the lifestyles and injustices the racially discriminated African-Americans went through and decided to communicate it in terms of artwork. Perhaps his most famous experience in colorful chronicling of African-Americans under the influence of jazz culture in 1930s and 1920s gave him a leeway into massive contribution to the Harlem Renaissance (Otfinoski, 2003). In his work, he vividly depicted an urban black culture that resembles the conventional and marginalized images of the black southerners so famous within the cultural eye. His artworks are aligned towards reaffirming the respect and pride of each racial group.

This piece of artwork by Motley holds much worth for people in the mixed society. I like the form chosen by the artists which prepares the viewer for his subject matter. The subject matter is entirely about racism in Chicago which, however, does not come out clear. However, with the help of combinations of different shapes like cylinders and ball shapes, the artist is able to paint human body parts and depict their motions (Bernier, 2008). Motion is also shown by the choice of color and light which bring into the eyes of the viewers the influence of jazz dance and culture among the African-Americans in Chicago (Patton, 1998). This reminds me of the dance movements in nightclubs where two people of the opposite sex dance while holding themselves close to one another’s’ chests. This kind of dance evokes the feeling of joy and happiness in the minds of the participants as well as in the eyes of the viewers. This makes me like the nightlife.

The artist wanted to dispel the myth of racism from the minds of people in Chicago. When people are in an environment enriched with joy and happiness like in night clubs, racism becomes a thing of the past. This is because every person in the club focuses on his/her self and offers to enjoy life it in plenty. Motley seems to have had enough insight about racism and how to erase it from the society. He exhaustibly succeeded in expressing his views about the subject to his viewers. He coupled life experience with artwork to create an image that is attractive and educative to the eyes and minds of viewers.