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William Henry Johnson works on display … on Long Island

Islip stakes claim to artist native to Florence


If by chance you find yourself in Islip, New York this month, they are celebrating Black History Month by featuring the art of Florence native William Henry Johnson at the town hall. Newsday tells the Johnson story while giving only the slightest nod to his roots, calling him a South Carolina native:

"Prints of more than a dozen of the South Carolina native's oil paintings are on display, including portraits of black heroes such as Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver, street scenes of Harlem, chronicles of life in America during World War II and 'Flowers' — which appeared on a U.S. postage stamp in 2012."

Johnson and his artist wife Holcha Krake are featured prominently at Florence County Museum, a cultural anchor in revitalized downtown cultural district in Florence (and 2019 recipient of the Verner Award in the government category). The museum certainly claims Johnson as belonging to Florence. It's certainly not The Hub's intent to start or step into any civic rivalries, but Johnson spent the last 23 years of his life in Central Islip State Hospital, according to Newsday, "hospitalized for mental illness caused by syphilis." He moved from Florence at 17, but spend the bulk of his life residing and creating in Harlem.  

Early career African-American artists invited to apply for $25,000 William H. Johnson Prize

[caption id="attachment_21538" align="alignright" width="200"]William H. Johnson William H. Johnson, c. 1918[/caption] The William H. Johnson Foundation for the Arts is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization that seeks to encourage African American artists early in their careers by offering financial grants. The Johnson Foundation awards grants to individuals who work in the following media: painting, photography, sculpture, printmaking, installation and/or new genre. The 2015 William H. Johnson Prize is $25,000 and the winner will be announced in December 2015. The William H. Johnson Prize is awarded annually to an early-career African American artist. For grant purposes, "early-career" is a flexible term that should be interpreted liberally to include artists who have finished their academic work within 12 years from the year that a prize is awarded. For example, a person who finished their studies in 2003 is eligible to apply in 2015, but not in 2016. Age is not determinative, and artists who have not earned BFAs or MFAs are still eligible so long as they have not been working as a professional artist for more than 12 years. The application deadline is Friday, Sept. 18, 2015, at 5 p.m. All applications must be submitted online. Find complete guidelines and apply online. About William H. Johnson William H. Johnson (1901-1970) is known primarily for his majestic Scandinavian landscapes and his witty and poignant scenes of African American daily life. Johnson, an African American from the rural South Carolina, overcame poverty, racial prejudice and a grade-school education to become one of the country's leading artists. Through the force of his personality and with a steadfast belief in himself, Johnson created an art entirely his own, original and fresh. Via: William H. Johnson Foundation for the Arts

Smithsonian exhibition of S.C. native’s work now in Lake City

A new Smithsonian Institution exhibition featuring rare paintings by Florence, South Carolina, native William H. Johnson makes its only S.C. stop in Lake City at the Jones-Carter Gallery. William H. Johnson: An American Modern runs through Dec. 29. Read more about Johnson and how the gallery landed the exhibition in this article from SCNow:

More than 80 years after his first showing in the Pee Dee, artist and Florence native William H. Johnson is being remembered in style with a Smithsonian Institute traveling art exhibit of his work at the Jones-Carter Gallery in Lake City. The $24 million art installation will be on display at the gallery, a 1920s converted hay and seed store, through Dec. 29, and gallery manager Hannah Davis said she couldn’t be more thrilled to play host to the Smithsonian exhibit. “For us to be able to bring this,” Davis asked. “I mean, come on. It’s just been really great.” For the Lake City gallery, meeting the guidelines to host Johnson’s work was no small feat. In order to comply with the Smithsonian’s extensive requirements for display, Davis had to complete a 40-page application and submit temperature and humidity readings for the gallery for the last several months. But that wasn’t all. At a cost of $200,000, donated by the Lake City Partnership Council, the gallery had to complete updates to the building that had only just been renovated in preparation for ArtFields earlier in the year, installing both a fire suppression system and a backup generator that can run the entire building in case of an electrical outage. The effort was well worth the end result, according to Darla Moore with the Lake City Partnership Council. “He (Johnson) was an integral part of the Harlem Renaissance and early 20th century American art, and we believe he is also going to be an integral part of the renaissance of the Pee Dee area,” Moore said. “We’re especially excited that Lake City has the privilege of having this exhibition. When you look at other locations this exhibit has been, like Philadelphia and Phoenix, it’s truly heartwarming to have Lake City in that mix.” Sadly, Johnson, who is still growing in popularity around the world as a top African-American artist 43 years after his death, never lived to see his home state recognize his talent. The only time Johnson ever saw his paintings recognized in South Carolina was in 1930 at a three-hour art show held at the Florence YMCA. No work was sold. Not a very welcoming atmosphere for a hometown boy who was popularly received throughout the Northeast and Europe at the time, even earning a gold medallion from the Harmon Foundation in New York City for distinguished achievement among African-Americans in that same year. All that has changed now, however. This collection of Johnson’s work has traveled to five other locations around the nation, but for Smithsonian project director Marquette Folley, who works with the institute’s traveling exhibition service, bringing the artist back to the Pee Dee has been the most meaningful. “It is our pleasure to be here,” Folley said. “It’s (the exhibit) been to five other locations, and I do declare that I think Lake City is one of the most exquisite of all the installations. It is the rare moment when we can join hands nationally and regionally and speak the truth. This American artist, who understood the truth, who understood that the African American ideal is American, that from it you can carve truth and inspiration about our identity and our significance. The fact that this man was born here, in Florence, he was cutting edge.” The exhibit is open to the public through Dec. 29 at the Jones-Carter Gallery in Lake City with free admission.
Via: SCNow

Florence Museum celebrates birthday of artist William H. Johnson

From SCNow.com/Morning News Online: A year after being memorialized with a stamp from the U.S. Postal Service, William H. Johnson will again be remembered Saturday (March 23) at the Florence Museum with a birthday celebration. In what has become an annual tradition, the trustees of the Florence Museum will host an ice cream social open to the public starting at 3:30 p.m. for the birthday of one of Florence’s most famous sons and artists. Sadly, Johnson, a black artist who is still growing in popularity around the world as a top African-American artist 43 years after his death, never lived to see his hometown recognize him for the talent he was. In fact, the only time Johnson ever saw his paintings recognized in his hometown was in 1930 at a three-hour art show held at the YMCA and hosted by The Morning News. No work was sold, and Johnson was later arrested during the same trip for painting a hotel downtown that served white people. Not a very welcoming atmosphere for a hometown boy who was popularly received throughout the Northeast and Europe at the time, even earning a gold medallion from the Harmon Foundation in New York City for distinguished achievement among Negroes in that same year. However, the Florence Museum is doing what it can to atone for the past.

In a testament to how well his work is revered in the art world outside of Florence and to what an important icon he is finally becoming here, Johnson will have the only permanent exhibit space in the Florence Museum when it relocates to its new downtown location early next year.
Through a rotational loan with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which owns more than 1,500 of his pieces, guests will be able to see a large variety of his works. Read the complete article. Read more about Johnson in this Florence Museum blog post. About the stamp image: An oil-on-plywood painting dated 1939-1940, Flowers depicts a vase of boldly rendered, brightly colored blooms on a small red table. The two-dimensional, consciously “naive” style in which Flowers was painted was one of the many techniques of modernist abstraction and “primitive” art adapted by Johnson during his career. The painting, a gift of the Harmon Foundation, belongs to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Read more about the stamp. Via: SCNow.com, beyondtheperf.com