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December 14, 2021

At age 71, artist Joseph E. Yoakum (1891–1972) began making landscape drawings of the places he had travelled to over the course of his life. “Wherever the mind led me, We would go,” he said. “I’ve been all over this world four times.”

“Joseph E. Yoakum: What We Saw” presents over 100 of Yoakum’s works. Drawn from memories, both real and imagined, his landscapes reveal a world no one has seen before or since: it is dense with swelling landforms, serpentine empty roads, and evergreen foliage, and almost always empty of people. The works reflect Yoakum’s religious faith and exploration of the tenets of Christian Science as much as they do his experience as a man of color in the United States over the course of the 20th century. He depicted events like major naval voyages and UFO sightings, and represented notable figures of African American history and culture in portrait drawings.

“Joseph E. Yoakum: What We Saw” provides a unique opportunity to see and celebrate the world as Yoakum did, and offers new discoveries about his working process, the development of his style, and the ways he imbued the living landscape with his shifting sense of personal identity.

"Joseph E. Yoakum: What We Saw" is open at The Museum of Modern Art through March 19, 2021 moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/5320

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The comments and opinions expressed in this video are those of the speaker alone, and do not represent the views of The Museum of Modern Art, its personnel, or any artist. 

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