Art of Ezra Jack Keats

I’m still having extremely obnoxious computer issues, so I will wait to post my photos from San Francisco, but thought I would post something on an show I saw at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco on the artwork of Ezra Jack Keats, a children’s book illustrator.  His collage work is absolutely gorgeous and I’m very excited to read through the catalog I bought on his work to learn more about his art and process :)

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What I also love about Keats is that he made mainstream children’s literature more diverse despite the generally accepted ideas of the time:

Then began an experience that turned my life around — working on a book with a black kid as hero. None of the manuscripts I’d been illustrating featured any black kids — except for token blacks in the background. My book would have him there simply because he should have been there all along.

-Ezra Jack Keats

As someone who’s worked with kids for most of my life, I recognize the importance of normalizing concepts from a young age.  While I’m certainly no expert, I believe that teaching diversity and acceptance even to very young children who cannot even begin to understand these concepts really does have an effect on what sort of person they will become.

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As beautiful as the books are, I found these collages to be even better in person and I highly recommend this show to anyone in the San Francisco area (I know it closes on the 24th of this month, so there is not a lot of time left!)

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Here’s a blurb about the show from the Contemporary Jewish Museum‘s website:

The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats is the first major exhibition in the United States to pay tribute to award-winning author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats (1916–1983), whose beloved children’s books include Whistle for Willie (1964), Peter’s Chair (1967), andThe Snowy Day (1962)—the first modern full-color picture book to feature an African American protagonist. Published in 1962, at the height of the civil rights movement in America, the book went on to become an inspiration for generations of readers, transforming children’s literature forever. The exhibition features over eighty original works by the artist, from preliminary sketches and dummies or preparatory books, to final paintings and collages, including examples of Keats’s most introspective but less-known output inspired by Asian art and poetry.
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While the show that I saw was in San Francisco, here’s a video that was made while the show was in New York that has a lot of great information if you’re interested:

 

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