Charles White: A Retrospective

Resnick Pavilion
February 17, 2019–June 9, 2019
Image: Charles White, Seed of Love

The first major 21st-century museum retrospective on this famed mid-century artist, Charles White: A Retrospective traces White’s career and impact in the cities he called home: Chicago, his birthplace; New York, where he joined social causes and gained acclaim; and Los Angeles, where he developed his mature art and became a civil rights activist. The exhibition includes approximately 100 drawings and prints along with lesser-known oil paintings. A superb draftsman, White focused on images of both historical and contemporary African Americans, depicted in ideal portraits and everyday scenes. He extolled their dignity, humanity, and heroism in the face of the country’s long history of racial injustice and encouraged his viewers and fellow artists of color to project their own self-worth. White created non-violent images despite escalating racial tensions; only in the mid-1960s did he become frustrated with the slow progress and begin to infuse his work with allusions to the continuing violence, poverty, and disparity of educational, housing, employment, and voting opportunities.

Two concurrent and complementary exhibitions will be on view in Los Angeles. Life Model: Charles White and His Students (February 16–September 14, 2019) will be on view at LACMA’s satellite gallery at Charles White Elementary School, formerly Otis Art Institute, where the artist taught for many years, and Plumb Line: Charles White and the Contemporary (March 6–August 25, 2018) will be presented at the California African American Museum, an institution whose establishment White championed.


Organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Modern Art, in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

This exhibition is supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art as part of Art Design Chicago, an initiative exploring Chicago’s art and design legacy.

Terra Foundation Logo

All exhibitions at LACMA are underwritten by the LACMA Exhibition Fund. Major annual support is provided by Mr. and Mrs. Anthony and Lee Shaw, Kitzia and Richard Goodman, Jerry and Kathleen Grundhofer, and Meredith and David Kaplan, with generous annual funding from the Judy and Bernard Briskin Family Foundation, Louise and Brad Edgerton, Edgerton Foundation, Emily and Teddy Greenspan, Marilyn B. and Calvin B. Gross, Mary and Daniel James, David Lloyd and Kimberly Steward, Kelsey Lee Offield, David Schwartz Foundation, Inc., Andy Song, Lenore and Richard Wayne, and The Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation.

Image: Charles White, Seed of Love, 1969, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum Acquisition Fund, © The Charles White Archives, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA