Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Cafe" by William H. Johnson

   This painting shows a man and a woman enjoying each others company in a cafe, as the title implies. They could be friends or lovers but either way the image is quite simple. Its kind of unclear what is on the right side of the table but it is clear that the woman has different colored limbs. To me this is saying that race doesn't matter when you're establishing a relationship with some one, as she is doing with the man. The man seems not interested in her though and this could represent that race does matter to some people when they interact with other people.
  Identification with race is present in this painting. The man is clearly identified as black while the woman doesn't belong to any race. Shes just an oddity of mismatched skin colors. This shows identification with race because she doesn't actually identify with any race at all. I think the woman in the painting represents that race is only a skin color that you were born with and nothing more;the only race that exists is human. While the man represents people who do identify with their 'race' aka skin color.
   I chose this picture because at first I really didn't get it at all. I spent a while trying to figure out why the woman had different colored limbs and why the man didn't. I also chose it because the title is ridiculously simple and doesn't convey anything about the meaning of the painting. The viewer is totally on their own to comprehend it. I wrote about another painting of William H. Johnson's and I like his style so I decided to do another.
   I don't honestly like this painting. I think it's ugly but on the other hand the meaning is totally above and beyond what the viewer would expect. Its not that the artist did a bad job or anything, its just that I can't relate to this painting at all. I think so many things are off like the placement of the limbs is very awkward and out of proportion to the body. I know that's part of the artist's style but still. Also the colors are kind of bland and it doesn't look like they're in a cafe. It looks like they could be sitting in some ones kitchen. Overall it had an interesting meaning but its not interesting to they eye.


  1. This is a very interesting analysis, Alaytra. At first glance I would definitely not have presumed it had anything to do with interracial relationships and I'm still not sure if it does but I really like the way you explained that perspective and I'm interested in learning more about the painting. Nice job!

  2. I think you need to take a tour when next at American Art Smithsonian. The woman's legs are pale because the only silk stockings or nylon stockings available at the time she lives were for white women. This is a depiction of the man in a zoot suit in the Harlem Renaissance.