Nightlife - Zachary Bergman History of American Art...

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Zachary Bergman History of American Art 5/1/08 Enjoying the Nightlife In Archibald Motley Jr.'s Nightlife, the vibrancy of the African American culture is portrayed in an upbeat nightclub setting. By using spirited colors and drawing focus to the characters and alcohol, Motley is able to put a positive light on the urban culture of South Side Chicago. The story shown in the very active and jovial 1943 painting depicts young, working class African Americans out on the town enjoying themselves during the peak of World War II. In this often somber, difficult time, the nightclub was one of the few places these people had to let go and forget about their troubles. The importance of alcohol in this scene is highlighted by juxtaposing it using darker colors and orderly composition against the lively colors and chaotic portrayal of the characters. The way the painting is approached and displayed seems to tell the story of a night on the town. The artist is able to use two different viewpoints to emphasize the opposing aspects of the painting. When first approaching the painting in the gallery, the view from the left side emphasizes the bar and open space in front of it which seem to take up a majority of the viewer's perspective. Then a shift to the right side of the painting minimizes the bar and focuses the viewer's attention on the happy, dancing characters. The shift is able to show the flow of the night and the dependence the patrons have on alcohol in order to be so carefree. This relationship is heavily revisited in most, if not all, of the
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Nightlife - Zachary Bergman History of American Art...

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