A Riveting, Powerful Ride Prints from Wpa Projects Combine History, Art, and Social Criticism

Article excerpt

With more than 100 pieces of work by more than forty African-American artists, "Alone In a Crowd" could have been a mind-boggling jumble of disparate voices.

Fortunately, the opposite proves true.

Culled from the vast print collection of Reba and Dave Williams, this exhibit of prints from WPA projects of the `30s and `40s makes powerful statements about self-pride, oppression, rural and city life, religion and, most of all, the ability to use the arts as a way of dealing with an economic depression that hit African-Americans doubly hard. Although most of these prints involved WPA workshops, they shouldn't be considered amateur projects. Far from it. Robert Blackburn, William McBride, Claude Clark a the list of established and brilliant artists repr esented in this show is long. John Woodrow Wilson, who studied for a time under Fernand Leger, stands at the top of this talented group, and his 1945 lithograph, "Street Car Scene," represents all that is inherent in an exhibit title like "Alone In a Crowd." A lone, black dockyard worker sits in a streetcar amid white passengers a some who seem to ignore him, others who seem to whisper behind his back. …