$5; $3 seniors/children 5-16 years old; free children ages 5 and younger
In 100 books, Jerry Pinkney has turned his artist's eye and hand to the story - a classic, a folktale, a fable - and readers all over the world saw something new, something they wanted to read and to remember. Pinkney is the master of the American picture book. More than 120 watercolor illustrations by the artist, who lives in Westchester, will be on view in the first major overview of his career as a designer and illustrator in "Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney." The exhibition follows his 2010 award of the Randolph Caldecott Medal for "The Lion and the Mouse." The Hudson River Museum is the only New York showing for this exhibition on national tour, organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Pinkney has found it interesting to trace how the chapters of his life have knitted themselves into his art, touching on the cultural themes of the African-American experience. He uncovers, again and again, the energy in a small moment that surprisingly can change a life or turn an event in history. Most recently in his almost wordless adaptation of the Aesop fable, "The Lion and The Mouse," two creatures on a faraway African plain choose not the hard chase and bloody battle but, instead, exchange kindnesses. Fascinated with wildlife, Pinkney, in many books including "The Brer Rabbit" in "The Last Tales of Uncle Remus" shows us the human qualities of an animal as he shows us the animal in its natural setting. Pinkney, Philadelphia born and bred, and now a long-time New Yorker, has illustrated children's books since 1964, but it was not an easy path. Blacks were not expected to be able to forge careers in the art field. Trained as a commercial artist at a vocational school, he persisted and won a scholarship to the Philadelphia College of Art where his work took on the shading and detail for which he is now renowned, and he where he began to use color to convey mood and emotion. He has most often worked on children's books that celebrate multiculturalism and African-American heritage, as he took on the task of reshaping the perceptions of the stereotypes of blacks. He designed the first nine stamps of the US Postal Service's Black Heritage series. Art critics will look at the color of Pinkney's illustrations, the scarlet curve of Little Red Riding Hood's cloak, the golden blade of grass on the Serengeti plane. Sociologists will look at Pinkney the little boy, who without a visit to a museum or an art class, drew at home on the back of wallpaper samples. What the viewer will see though, in "The Art of Jerry Pinkney" is his wish: "It has always been my intent for my work to continue to breathe after publication. My hope is that (museum visitors) will believe that Jerry Pinkney cares deeply for people, making art, and visual storytelling." The exhibition includes a 96-page illustrated catalog that provides new scholarship into Pinkney's work in essays by the exhibition's co-curator Stephanie Haboush Plunkett, Dr. Gerald L. Early, and others. On view through January 13, 2013.
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