James Lesesne Wells American

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Wells’s Builders celebrates industrial labor and pays particular tribute to African American workers. Working in linocut, a medium for which an artist cuts into a soft linoleum sheet and can create curved and straight lines with equal ease, Wells made effective use of black ink with the white paper, a combination that here resonates with distinct racial implications. Rendered at heroic profile, the central and largest figure recalls the art of ancient Egypt, a frequent touchstone in painting, sculpture, and design in the 1920s. Wells made Builders in 1929, the year when he joined the faculty of Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he taught printmaking for the next forty years.

Builders, James Lesesne Wells (American, Atlanta, Georgia 1902–1993 Washington, D.C.), Linocut

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