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Hughie Lee-Smith: Meditations


Hughie Lee-Smith
Oil on canvas, 1987
Collection of the Muskegon Museum of Art
Purchased in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the Muskegon Museum of Art through the Hackley Picture Fund, the Art Acquisition Fund, a gift in honor of Margaret “Marge” Byington Potter from her friends Susy Heintz Avery, Marcie Brogan, Barbara Gattorn, Kimberly Johnson, Mary Kramer, Anne Mervenne, and Kathleen Wilbur, and a gift from Dr. Anita Herald

Thelma and Paul Wiener Gallery

This Museum-organized study exhibition presents a core group of paintings, drawings, and prints that have a strong affinity with two important paintings in the Museum’s collection by African-American artist Hughie Lee-Smith (1915–1999): Landscape #3 from 1941, and Aprés-Midi, dated 1987, from our new Centennial Collection. Hughie Lee-Smith: Meditations comprises more than 20 works from the 1930s to the 1960s lent by public and private Midwest collections.

The art of Hughie Lee-Smith, who spent nearly two decades in Detroit in the 1940s and 1950s, demonstrates an acute understanding of both the African American experience as well as the human condition in general. Meditations gives further depth to our understanding of Lee-Smith’s enigmatic vision. The MMA’s Landscape #3, one of the artist’s earliest landscapes of dark palette and ominous features, is thought to have been painted in Detroit. Aprés-Midi, the much later and brighter, but still sobering, waterfront scene is likely derived from memories of Michigan and the Great Lakes, and still reflects some of Lee-Smith’s most provocative elements that were established early in his career: the remote landscape, long shadows, and isolated figures. The Muskegon pictures form an ideal backdrop for a selection of important works from the Mott Warsh Collection, the Flint Institute of Arts, the Columbus Museum of Art, private West Michigan collections, and others.

Hughie Lee-Smith: Meditations
was organized by the Muskegon Museum of Art and is underwritten by the DTE Energy Foundation.


Opening Reception & Program

Thursday, February 21
5:30 pm Reception | 7:00 pm Talk by Michael D. Hall on Hughie Lee-Smith
Join us for refreshments; then learn about the life and work of Hughie Lee-Smith. Michael Hall’s illustrated talk cover the development of Lee-Smith’s art with a particular emphasis on the way the artist’s early years in Cleveland and Detroit shaped his creative vision. Hall will also offer some thoughts on the highly personal symbols that can be found in so many of the works that Lee-Smith produced over his long and distinguished career.
    Michael D. Hall is a sculptor, educator, curator, collector, and writer. He holds an M.F.A. in sculpture from the University of Washington, and has held teaching positions at the University of Colorado, the University of Kentucky, Washington University, Miami University (Ohio) and was Sculptor in Residence at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan from 1970 until 1990. Hall is also well known as an authority on American folk art and on American Scene painting. A collection of his critical writings was published as Stereoscopic Perspective: Reflections on American Fine and Folk Art in 1988. In 1997, Hall served as a co-curator for a major exhibition of watercolors by the early modernist and pioneer regionalist Charles Burchfield. A book titled The Paintings of Charles Burchfield: North by Midwest was co-authored by Hall and accompanied that exhibition on its national tour. Hall’s extensive biography on the Ohio regionalist painter Emerson Brukhart was published in 2010. Most recently, Hall served as co-curator for the exhibition Carvings and Commerce: Model Totem Poles 1880–2010 presented at the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon, Canada. Presently, Michael Hall divides his time between making sculpture in his Michigan studio and serving as Adjunct Curator of Folk Art at the Columbus Museum of Art in Columbus, Ohio.

Open Tours
Thursdays, February 21 & 28, 1:00-3:00 pm
Sunday, February 10, 1:00-2:00 pm
Drop in for guided tours led by MMA docents. Thursday tours are free. The Sunday tour is free for Muskegon Community College students, MMA members, or with paid Museum admission. Registrations are not required.

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