The Phillips Collection presents 'Jacob Lawrence and The Children of Hiroshima'

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The Phillips Collection presents 'Jacob Lawrence and The Children of Hiroshima'
Jacob Lawrence, Hiroshima Series: Boy with Kite, 1983, Color screenprint on Somerset paper, 13 x 10 in, Published by Limited Editions Club, New York, Ed. 19/35, The Phillips Collection, Gift of Nora Lee and Jon Sedmak.

WASHINGTON, DC.- The Phillips Collection presents Jacob Lawrence and the Children of Hiroshima. The museum’s latest exhibition reexamines the impact of the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, Japan through a conversation between Jacob Lawrence’s Hiroshima prints and selected drawings by the children of Hiroshima’s Honkawa Elementary School. Created 35 years apart, the clear call and response in these two powerful bodies of work convey the emotional impact of nuclear warfare and the potential for peace and reconciliation. Jacob Lawrence and the Children of Hiroshima will be on view August 23 to November 27, 2022.

“The Phillips has an enduring and deeply valued relationship with the work of Jacob Lawrence,” says Vradenburg Director and CEO Dorothy Kosinski. “We are so pleased to partner with All Souls Church Unitarian on this exciting collaboration. They are a historic DC organization with deep ties and connections in the community.”

When Jacob Lawrence was selected by Limited Editions Club to illustrate one of their titles in 1983, he chose John Hersey’s book, Hiroshima, a vivid account of six survivors of the atomic bomb. Lawrence’s haunting scenes are cloaked in dissonant shades of pink, red, yellow, and blue. Lawrence intentionally generalized the features of the skull-like heads to make a universal statement about “man’s inhumanity to man.”

“To present Jacob Lawrence’s Hiroshima series for the first time in Phillips’s history together with the children’s drawings from Honkawa Elementary School demonstrates the powerful conversation between art and significant moments of our time,” shares Chief Curator Elsa Smithgall.

In December 1947, All Souls Church Unitarian under the leadership of Reverend A. Powell Davies inspired his congregation to collect and donate school supplies to children affected by the dropping of the atomic bomb at Honkawa Elementary School. In response, the students of Honkawa sent a collection of drawings to the church of happy memories and moments filled with brilliant colors that did not suggest the loss and devastation in their lives. In 2010, the drawings were reunited with the surviving artists in Hiroshima.

“The Hiroshima Children's Drawings are predicated on the human wisdom of hope...hope for the elimination of nuclear weapons as a part of human relations,” says All Souls Church Unitarian Executive Director Traci Hughes-Trotter. “It is a testament that the drawings are paired with Lawrence’s Hiroshima series by All Souls Church Unitarian and The Phillips Collection to join in the hopeful cry of “never again."

The Philips Collection has a longstanding relationship with Jacob Lawrence, advancing cross-disciplinary knowledge and understanding of his work in exhibitions and educational initiatives, including the museum’s recent centennial exhibition, Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle as well as through digital resources: Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) was one of the greatest American artists of the 20th century. Early in his career, he developed his unique multi-panel format and painted historical narratives about the lives of famed African Americans. In 1942, The Phillips Collection acquired half, or thirty odd-numbered panels of his acclaimed Migration Series (1940-41) and the Museum of Modern Art acquired the even-numbered panels. This epic 60-panel series depicting the mass movement of African Americans from the South to the North between the World Wars has remained a cornerstone of The Phillips Collection and is currently on view.

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