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Hand-colored, double-sided screenprint
Sheet: 40.6 x 27.9 cm (16 x 11 in.); Image: 34.7 x 25.5 cm (13 11/16 x 10 1/16 in.)
The Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund 2012.9
The artist printed on both sides of the sheet, adding musical instruments and slightly altering the color scheme in the final version (recto).
African American artist William H. Johnson’s screenprint presents dancers enjoying the jitterbug, a dance craze that came out of Harlem, a predominantly African American neighborhood of Manhattan, just before World War II. The smartly dressed couple dances enthusiastically at one of Harlem’s popular nightclubs—perhaps the famous Savoy Ballroom—while hints of live music appear in the form of two trumpet bells and piano keys. The sharp angles and kinetic stripes of the floor emphasize the dancers’ fast pace. At the time, screenprinting was used as a commercial printing method and rarely for fine art. Johnson’s technique, which he taught at the Harlem Community Art Center, includes the flat tonal areas typical of the medium.
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