There is an Average of Four Bars to Every Block
Harlem Series, 1943
Gouache, ink, and pencil on paper
39.7 x 57.5 cm (15 5/8 x 22 5/8 inches)
Mary B. Jackson Fund 43.565
The historical struggles of black Americans were chronicled through four series of narrative paintings by Jacob Lawrence between 1938 and 1941. In the Harlem series of 1942, Lawrence turned from history to his own neighborhood and created thirty works of gritty contemporary life. In There is an Average of Four Bars to Every Block men and women of different races and attitudes crowd Jack’s Bar. The title may suggest that Lawrence did not entirely approve of Harlem’s barroom culture.Then, as now, public drinking was more than a benign social activity. It undermined the weak, some still reeling from the GreatDepression. Lawrence’s social commentary is enlivened by bold colors arranged in flat, asymmetrical patterns that recall not only Cubist collage but also the rhythms and breaks of jazz music of the Harlem Renaissance.