Aaron Douglas was a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance, known for his murals and illustrations that addressed social issues around race and segregation in the U.S. His painting “Aspects of Negro Life: Song of the Towers” is a masterpiece created in 1934 as part of a four-mural collection reflecting the African American experience in the American dream.
In “Song of the Towers,” Douglas portrays jazz as a significant contribution of African American culture to the world, with an iconic saxophone player symbolizing intersections of African heritage, African American culture, and national identity. The central figure holds a trombone and stands before the Statue of Liberty, pointing to symbols of the Harlem Renaissance. The painting depicts migration patterns that occurred after World War I, when many African Americans moved from New York to northern industrial centers like Detroit and Chicago.
Through his artwork, Douglas also touches on themes surrounding freedom both nationally and individually highlighting the tensions between what was achieved versus what still needed to be done. Douglas’ use of vibrant colors combined with unique geometric shapes reflects his modernist style. However within this modernism style were inspiration pulled from ancient Egyptian art which showcased their own innovative explorations into geometry; this connection links past cultural contributions with present innovations stemming directly from it’s roots representing it’s cultural development and progression rather than something completely new and foreign.