Obelisk Art History

Sound of Silence

Charles White, 1978
Sound of Silence, Charles White
Sound of Silence, zoomed in
63.8 cmSound of Silence scale comparison89.7 cm
See Sound of Silence in the Kaleidoscope

Sound of Silence is a Lithography Print created by Charles White in 1978. It lives at the Art Institute of Chicago in the United States. The image is © Charles White Archives, and used according to Educational Fair Use, and tagged Allegory and Black Subjects. Source

The young black man wears a cream bomber jacket, and his arms are outstretched, like he’s carrying a great, invisible weight. His strong hands create a protected space, where a conch shell as big as his head floats at chest level. It’s an otherworldly image, less surrealist dreamscape and more a religious icon, the man’s natural hairstyle evoking a saint’s halo.

The Sound of Silence is a lithograph print first created in 1978 by Charles White, and remixed over and over. Sometimes the man’s jacket is blue or orange, sometimes the image is in black and white. In a later version the shell has been cut out of paper itself—a jagged hole below the man’s imploring expression. In another, the young man has been cut from the image, just his loose clothes and the floating shell remain.

Reed Enger, "Sound of Silence," in Obelisk Art History, Published February 17, 2020; last modified October 11, 2022, http://arthistoryproject.com/artists/charles-white/sound-of-silence/.

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