Freeing the Figure

If the late Northwest painter Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) is sometimes considered a chronicler of the African-American experience, the two dozen works in the Lawrence Gallery place him in a post-war, modernist context. Curator Michael Darling has raided the SAM cellar and pulled out some significant canvasses. Perhaps most prized is de Kooning’s intense green-orange Woman from 1943, which forgoes figuration for the suggestion of a face and her forbidding glare. Nearby, Lawrence’s 1975 Confrontation at the Bridge uses bright daubs of color to suggest faces and forms, similar to strategies by Robert Colescott across the room. A much earlier work from Lawrence, Struggle #2 (1965), reduces a riot scene–with policeman swinging billy club–to outline, quite reminiscent of a Picasso pencil sketch (right down to the grimacing horse). BRIAN MILLER

Thursdays, Fridays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Starts: Nov. 20. Continues through Nov. 28, 2009