Allan de Souza’s Panel 61

The story of migration is ongoing. In the final, 60th panel of The Migration Series, Jacob Lawrence leaves us with the words “And the migrants keep coming.” The Phillips has invited contemporary artists to continue Jacob Lawrence’s work. Check the recently launched Jacob Lawrence website for additional works to be unveiled in this dynamic curated selection, or contribute your own #Panel61.


Allan deSouza, Entry (from The World Series), 2011. Digital print, 12 x 16 in.

Allan deSouza, Entry (from The World Series)

The artist’s multimedia work explores the relationship between individual experience and historical and ideological constructs. In his Intersections installation for the Phillips in 2011, The World Series, deSouza responded to Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series with 30 photographs taken on his travels around the world that capture the condition of people on the move.

Truth by Train/Ambiguity by Air

(left) Jacob Lawrence, “The Migration Series, Panel no. 3: From every southern town migrants left by the hundreds to travel north.”, 1940-41. Casein tempera on hardboard, 12 x 18 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. © 2010 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. (right) Allan deSouza, “Specter” from “The World Series, 2010-11.” Courtesy of the artist and Talwar Gallery, New York / New Delhi.

A recent review by Philip Kennicott of photographer Allan deSouza’s installation, The World Series, which responds to Jacob Lawrence’s The Migration Series, prompted me to take a second look at the artwork and jot down my thoughts.

Kennicott writes of deSouza’s work’s “. . . (perhaps unconscious) appeal to the class of people who travel, who are rich and privileged enough to enjoy the sweet dislocation of life in multiple time zones.”  Indeed, about half of the photographs in deSouza’s installation are of airborne postmodern travel, with the gray concrete and glass ubiquity of airports or shot from an airplane window, with no clear indication whether the image was shot in Jakarta, Prague, Paris, or Milwaukee.

It is in this visual continuity of deSouza’s images of air travel–with their dominant color and style of photographic gray–that I find an interesting parallel with Lawrence’s The Migration Series. The visual equivalent to deSouza’s grey is Lawrence’s use of brown, frequently painted with a dry brush, which the artist used to suggest the wooden floor of southern shotgun shacks, parched fields ravaged by drought or boll weevils, or the interior of railroad cars and train stations. Lawrence’s browns are a base color that evokes the depleted South that African Americans departed in droves.

DeSouza’s photographs and their glossy grays with metallic highlights and reflective surfaces express the 21st century world through which one travels (migrates). And while for many museum-goers and art critics, deSouza’s photographs may suggest the “sweet dislocation of modern life,” for today’s migrants they might suggest the alien world in which one travels to escape oppression and seek opportunity. Continue reading

South to North and Around the World

Finishing touches – from labels to wall paint – complete the installation of Allan deSouza’s new Intersections project, The World Series. The San Francisco-based artist talks about his work tonight at 6:30 pm, no reservation required.

Allan deSouza's new "The World Series" responds to Jacob Lawrence's "The Migration Series," painted 70 years ago. Photo: Amy Wike

Labels are prepared and placed with each of the 30 panels in "The World Series." Photo: Amy Wike

Installations Manager Bill Koberg places labels beneath works from Jacob Lawrence's "The Migration Series" in an adjacent gallery. Photo: Amy Wike