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African-American art

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

African-American art is a broad term describing the visual arts of the American black community (African Americans). Influenced by various cultural traditions, including those of Africa, Europe and the Americas, traditional African-American art forms include the range of plastic arts, from basket weaving, pottery, and quilting to woodcarving and painting.

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  • ✪ Colored Frames [Documentary]
  • ✪ The Golden Age of African American Art
  • ✪ African American Art - Kevin "WAK" Williams - Part III
  • ✪ African American Art Curator Talk
  • ✪ Don Stephens Art Classes at October Gallery, African American Art, African American Artists

Transcription

>> ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> WELL, IT TOOK A WHILE TO HAVE SOMETHING CALLED BLACK ART. IN A WAY, IT WASN'T... IT WAS TOO EARLY. IT WASN'T JELLED TO THAT, RIGHT? EVEN WHEN I LEFT IN THE '50s, NO ONE THOUGHT OF... YOU KNOW, THERE WERE SO FEW BLACK ARTISTS THAT YOU DIDN'T THINK THAT WAY. >> THE ART WORLD WAS JUST CLOSED TO BLACK ARTISTS, PERIOD. WHITE PEOPLE WOULD STARE AT YOU WITH SO MUCH HATE, YOU'D WONDER, ARE THEY LOOKING BEHIND ME? YOU KNOW, WHAT IS THIS? SO, I HAD A LOT OF ANGER FROM THE RESTRICTIONS THAT I RAN INTO AND GENERAL ATTITUDES. >> MY FATHER, LIGHT SKIN BROTHER, THE BLACK BROTHERS WOULD CALL HIM AFFECTIONATELY "WHITE BOY." ONE TIME HE WENT TO THE STEEL MILLS, HE WAS STANDING IN THE LINE. IT HAPPENS THAT THE LINE HE WAS STANDING IN, HE DIDN'T REALIZE IT, IT WAS ALL WHITE, BUT HE DIDN'T KNOW UNTIL HE GOT NEAR THE DESK. THEN HE LOOKED OVER AND SAW IT WAS A BLACK LINE. SO HE STEPPED OVER INTO THE BLACK LINE. THE GUY AT THE DESK SAID, "NIGGER, YOU JUST LOST HALF YOUR SALARY. WE PAY NIGGERS HALF " I MEAN, JUST BLATANTLY. WHAT WAS THE THING ABOUT ALL THAT? I HAD TO THINK ABOUT THIS LATER. THEN THE WHITE COMMUNITY WOULD SAY, "THOSE LAZY NIGGERS" AND ALL THAT. IT WAS NEVER FAIR IN THE FIRST PLACE. THEY COULDN'T GET IT. >> IT JUST SEEMED TO BE A SHUT-DOWN PART OF THE CULTURE. WASN'T SHOWING ANY WORK BY AFRICAN-AMERICAN ARTISTS AT ALL. IN FACT, THEY WERE VERY ADAMANT ABOUT NOT INCLUDING YOUR WORK. BLACK PEOPLE WANTED TO SEE THEMSELVES IN POSITIVE WAYS AND ART WAS A WAY TO DO THAT. >> I FEEL LIKE I WAS RACIALIZED WHEN I CAME TO THE UNITED STATES. YOU KNOW, I STARTED TO KIND OF IDENTIFY AS KENYAN MORE SO THAN I HAD BEFORE, IN A VERY PARTICULAR WAY BECAUSE RACE DID BECOME THE SUFFOCATING IDENTITY OR IDENTIFICATION. >> WHEN I FIRST CAME TO AMERICA AND I'D GO TO THE STORES TO BUY STUFF, AND THE SECURITY GUARDS WOULD FOLLOW ME AROUND, I DID NOT UNDERSTAND IT. YOU KNOW, I WAS LIKE, UH... YOU KNOW, IS THERE SOMETHING I DID WRONG? OR, IS IT THE WAY I'M DRESSED OR SOMETHING? SO, WELL, WE BRING ALL THOSE THINGS TO OUR EXPERIENCES. APARTHEID. THE MARCHES IN SOWETO. THE MARCHES IN MISSISSIPPI. THE CIVIL RIGHTS MARCHES, YOU KNOW. SO, AS A BLACK ARTIST, YOU BRING A RICHER OR A MORE VARIED EXPERIENCE TO ART. >> SOMETIMES WE CAN LIMIT OURSELVES JUST BY WHAT WE'VE BEEN CONDITIONED OF READING AND SEEING ON TELEVISION, IN MAGAZINES, OR JUST THROUGH TALK, YOU KNOW. IF IT'S FROM, YOU KNOW... IT'S LIKE DURING SLAVE TIMES, YOU KNOW, THE MASTERS WOULD BEAT AND STRIP DOWN THE STRONGEST, THE HUGEST, BIGGEST BLACK MAN JUST SO THE REST OF THE GROUP WOULD KNOW WHERE THEIR PLACE WAS, YOU KNOW? IF THE STRONGEST PERSON IS DEFEATED, WHAT CAN THE OTHER PEOPLE DO? SO THROUGH THAT CONDITIONING, IT'S LIKE, YOU KNOW, THAT'S WHAT'S BEEN PUT IN OUR HEADS. >> SINCE I WAS A KID, I REMEMBER, YOU KNOW, "HEY, NIGGER," YOU KNOW. AND THERE WAS A LOT OF THINGS LIKE THAT. YOU KNOW, KIDS CALLING YOU THE "N" WORD. WE USED TO GO INTO 7-ELEVEN AND THE ASIAN GUY THERE USED TO CALL US, "NIGGER, NIGGER, NIGGER, TOO MANY NIGGER." YOU KNOW, STUFF LIKE THAT, AND IT'S LIKE, IT'S MESSED UP. >> EVEN IN NEW YORK CITY, THERE WAS RACISM ALL OVER AND IT WAS OVERT. AND, YOU KNOW, I REMEMBER ALSO GOING TO NORTH CAROLINA AND MY GRANDFATHER AND THEM TELLING ME THE STORIES ABOUT PEOPLE BEING HUNG. THOSE STORIES ARE SO SCARY. I MEAN, SOME OF THEM EVEN COME UP TODAY BECAUSE THEY WERE REAL-LIFE STORIES. THEY WEREN'T JUST LIKE SLEEPY HOLLOW STORIES, YOU KNOW. IT WAS LIKE SCARY. >> BLACK PEOPLE GETTING THEIR ASS KICKED. YOU KNOW, FIGHTING, YOU KNOW, TO SIT DOWN AT A COUNTER AND EAT LIKE ANYBODY ELSE. TO GET HAIRCUTS, YOU KNOW, LIKE ANYBODY ELSE. TO BE TREATED AS A CITIZEN OF THIS COUNTRY RATHER THAN LIKE SOME THROW-AWAY. >> I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY, IF ANYBODY THINK THEY'RE SUPERIOR, IF I THOUGHT I WERE SUPERIOR, I WOULDN'T TREAT AN INFERIOR THE WAY THEY DID. I NEVER COULD UNDERSTAND THE LOGIC. HOW COULD THEY POSSIBLY TELL THE KIDS, "DON'T PLAY WITH THOSE LITTLE NIGGERS" IF THEY HADN'T DONE ANYTHING TO THEM? YOU KNOW. >> AMERICA WAS RELUCTANT TO RECEIVE AFRICAN-AMERICANS. I MEAN, THE WHOLE ERA OF JIM CROW WAS A PERIOD OF INSTITUTIONALIZING APARTHEID IN THIS COUNTRY. AND VERY OFTEN THESE RESTRICTIONS ON WHAT YOU COULD AND COULD NOT DO WERE LEGISLATED RESTRICTIONS. IT WAS NOT DE FACTO SEPARATIONS OR SEGREGATIONS, IT WAS DE JURE. >> WE WERE DOING LIKE FIGURE DRAWING WHEN I WAS IN THE FOURTH GRADE, ON SATURDAYS. MY MOTHER NEVER KNEW ABOUT IT. MY MOTHER WAS FROM SOUTH CAROLINA. AND, YOU KNOW, AND MY FATHER WAS FROM NORTH CAROLINA. AND THE PLACE RIGHT OUTSIDE OF LUMBERDEN, LUMBERTON THAT WAS THE BIGGEST KU KLUX KLAN RALLY THEY HAD A BIG, HUGE SIGN, ABOUT 90 FOOT TALL, I SAW WHEN I WAS A YOUNGSTER. AND HERE IT IS, I'M DRAWING... NUDE WHITE WOMEN. I COULD NOT GO HOME AND REPORT THAT TO MY MOM. SO I DID WHAT I CALLED MY FIRST SERIES, WHICH WAS CALLED "THE JESUS CHRIST SERIES." >> ONE OF MY FIRST EXPERIENCES THAT I REMEMBER IS OF TAKING A FASHION ILLUSTRATION COURSE, WHERE I DREW A MODEL WITH AFROCENTRIC FEATURES. YOU KNOW, THE WIDER NOSE, AND I ACTUALLY COLORED THE SKIN. AND PART OF MY TEACHER'S CRITIQUE WAS TO ERASE THE COLOR FROM THE MODEL AND ALSO TO THIN OUT THE NOSE AND LIPS AND SAY THIS IS WHAT A MODEL LOOKS LIKE. SO, MANY OF THE EXPERIENCES WERE GOOD, BUT THAT, I MUST SAY, WAS A DEVASTATING ONE, AND I DIDN'T KNOW HOW MUCH SO AT THE TIME BUT I JUST FELT LIKE A LITTLE COLLAPSE INSIDE MYSELF, BUT, YOU KNOW, I TOOK IT BACK AND I REWORKED IT THE WAY I HAD BEFORE. BUT IT DEFINITELY HAD A STAYING POWER. >> I HAD PROFESSORS ACTUALLY GIVE ME LOWER GRADES BECAUSE I DREW BLACK PEOPLE. EVERYBODY IN THE CLASS HAD TO PICK A STORY BY SHAKESPEARE AND DO A POSTER OR A PAINTING. SO LIKE YOU'RE ALMOST MAKING A MOVIE POSTER. SO I CHOSE ROMEO AND JULIET. ROMEO WAS DARK SKINNED AND JULIET WAS LIGHT SKINNED. I DIDN'T REALLY THINK ABOUT, "OOH, I'M GOING TO MAKE HIM BLACK," I JUST DID IT. SO WHEN I HUNG IT UP ON THE WALL, THE FIRST THING MY PROFESSOR SAID WAS, "ROMEO AND JULIET WEREN'T BLACK." AND I'M LIKE, "IF THEY WERE IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD, THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN BLACK," SO IT MADE ME THINK, HMM, ALL THESE Cs I'M GETTING BECAUSE I'M DRAWING COLORED FOLKS, THAT'S WHY I WAS GETTING THOSE Cs. I GUESS "C" IS FOR COLORED. >> IT WASN'T THAT YOU COULD CHOOSE NOT TO GO TO THE MOVIE THEATER AND SIT IN THE ORCHESTRA SECTION OR YOU COULD CHOOSE NOT TO GO TO A PARTICULAR HOUSING DEVELOPMENT, LIKE STUYVESANT TOWN RIGHT HERE IN NEW YORK. OR THAT YOU COULD CHOOSE NOT TO GO TO A SCHOOL LIKE DUKE UNIVERSITY. YOU WERE NOT PERMITTED TO. SO, IN FACT, MANY PEOPLE FOUND IT NECESSARY TO LEAVE TO GET TRAINING, TO FIND A COMMUNITY OF ARTISTS WITH WHOM THEY COULD LIVE, AND TO FIND OPPORTUNITIES FOR EXHIBITION, BECAUSE, IN FACT, THEY WERE VERY LIMITED. NOT NON-EXISTENT, BUT VERY LIMITED IN THE UNITED STATES. [ BELL TOLLING ] >> WHEN I WENT TO PARIS, THAT WAS THE BEST PART OF MY LIFE. BECAUSE I WENT THERE WITH A LOT OF PAIN. BUT I LEARNT ART ON A LEVEL THAT WAS JUST BEYOND ANYTHING I EVER IMAGINED, BECAUSE THEY WERE JUDGING ME BASED ON MY ART. MY FIRST PROFESSOR WAS IDOUX, AND HE WAS WITH PICASSO FOR A WHILE. AND HE... WE GOT BEYOND THIS WHOLE IDEA OF BEING BLACK ART. HE JUST SAID, "I JUST WANT TO LOOK AT THE GOOD STUFF." >> I WENT TO EUROPE ON THE G.I. BILL BECAUSE I COULD GO. THERE'S NO WAY I COULD HAVE GONE TO EUROPE BEFORE THE WAR. WE WOULD HAVE THOUGHT, TAKING THAT STEAMER OVER AND ALL OF THAT, THAT MEANS A MATTER OF MONEY. YOU TAKE THE RACISM. WE KNOW ALL ABOUT RACISM. BUT A LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T KNOW THIS. 1939, WHEN JESSE OWENS OR '36, WHATEVER IT WAS WHEN HE WAS IN BERLIN AND HITLER WOULDN'T SHAKE HIS HAND, YOU KNOW THAT. JESSE OWENS, HE SET THE WORLD'S RECORD. A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK, YOU KNOW, THAT WAS RACISM. THAT WAS RACISM FROM HIM, BUT THOSE SAME GUYS ON THE TEAM, WHEN THEY WENT INTO BERLIN AND THE BARS I MEAN, THE WOMEN WERE ALL OVER THEM. [ CHUCKLES ] I MEAN, GOODNESS. IT'S COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. >> THESE GUYS CAME BACK FROM WORLD WAR II. YOU KNOW, THE JAZZ MUSICIANS, YOU KNOW. AND THESE GUYS, YOU KNOW, WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? I MEAN, I'VE BEEN FIGHTING FOR THIS COUNTRY AND I COME BACK AND I CAN'T SIT DOWN AND HAVE A MEAL? I CAN'T DO THIS, I CAN'T DO THAT? I MEAN, THAT'S WHAT STARTED JAZZ, YOU KNOW. THESE CATS STARTED PLAYING THIS STUFF THAT THEY COULDN'T GET TO IT. THEY DIDN'T KNOW WHAT IT WAS. >> JAZZ IS THE PERFECT ART FORM. IT'S THE ONLY AMERICAN ART FORM, I THINK, THAT'S REALLY BEEN RECOGNIZED. IF YOU PATTERN YOURSELF AFTER THE IMPROVISATIONAL SIDE, IT SHOWS YOU THAT THERE IS ANOTHER WAY OF LOOKING AT WORK. JUST LIKE WHEN PICASSO LOOKED AT CUBISM AND HE STARTED SAYING, "YOU KNOW SOMETHING? THERE'S SOMETHING VERY INTERESTING ABOUT IT. VERY SIMPLE BUT RIGHT ON THE POINT." AND I THINK JAZZ PUT A LOT OF ARTISTS ON POINT. AND ALL OF THE SUDDEN, YOU GET IT, AND IT OPENS IT, AND THAT'S WHAT YOU WANT AS AN ARTIST, TO BE ABLE TO OPEN UP THAT AREA THAT'S BEEN CLOSED BY SOCIETY. >> IT'S A CONSTANT STRUGGLE GOING ON. WE TALK ABOUT DEMOCRACY AND IT'S A BEAUTIFUL CONCEPT, BUT IT'S NOT A DESTINATION. I SEE IT AS A JOURNEY, YOU KNOW, AND THE BEST WAY TO REACH THERE, IT'S SELF-ANALYSIS. IT'S REALLY LOOKING AT IT AND REEVALUATING WHAT WE BELIEVE IN, OUR MORALS, OUR VALUES. THINGS THAT WE'VE ACCEPTED. WE HAVE TO QUESTION THOSE, WE HAVE TO CHALLENGE THOSE. WE HAVE TO CONFRONT THOSE THINGS. YOU KNOW, SO THAT'S WHAT I MEAN BY THE STRUGGLE. IT IS A CONSTANT STRUGGLE, YOU KNOW, TO MAKE LIFE BETTER THAN BEFORE, FOR EVERYBODY. MARTIN LUTHER KING AND ALL THESE OTHER FIGHTERS DREW A LOT FROM WHAT HAPPENED IN AFRICA. SO THERE'S ALWAYS BEEN THIS TRANSCONTINENTAL INSPIRATION GOING ON. THERE IS THIS NOSTALGIC FEELING OF BELONGING HERE AND BELONGING THERE. THERE IS THIS PULL FROM THE CONTINENT, FROM MY NATION, FROM MY PEOPLE. I CAN HEAR MY GRANDMOTHER. MY GRANDMOTHER IS PASSED. SHE PASSED LIKE 15 YEARS AGO. BUT I STILL CAN SEE MYSELF AS A BABY IN HER ARMS, ROCKING ME TO SLEEP. YOU KNOW, AND SHE'S SINGING, YOU KNOW, LIKE IT'S ONE OF MY FAVORITE LULLABIES. ♪ ♪ DJEDJEVIGNE LO TOBOLO DJEDJEVIGNE LO TOBOLO ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ DJEDJEVIGNE LO TOBOLO DJEDJEVIGNE LO TOBO ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ MEGBA FANVI LE ZAMME NA MO MEGBA FANVI LE ZAMME NA MO ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ZANGBETO LA HO GBE LA SIO NAM LO ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ DJEDJEVIGNE LO TOBOLO ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> WHAT WE ARE STILL TAUGHT IN SCHOOLS AS ART HISTORY IS DOMINATED BY WESTERN EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVES OF BEAUTY AND PERSPECTIVES OF WHAT ART AND CULTURE IS. AND CERTAINLY IT'S BROADENING BUT IT'S STILL, IT'S A FIGHT THAT'S STILL GOING ON AT MANY DIFFERENT LEVELS. >> FROM A WHITE PERSPECTIVE, AN ALL-WHITE SCENE IS NORMALCY. AND IT'S ABNORMAL FOR A PERSON OF COLOR BE THEY AFRICAN-AMERICAN, ASIAN, LATINO, BE THEY OF ARAB DESCENT THEY SEE SOMETHING WRONG WHEN SOMEONE OF COLOR GETS IN. I MEAN, LIKE, SUDDENLY IT'S LIKE, THERE'S A SAYING IN JAPAN ABOUT A NAIL STICKING OUT AND YOU HAVE TO HAMMER IT BACK IN. THAT IS IF SOMEONE AS A PERSONALITY STANDS OUT, THE COMMUNITY WILL HAMMER YOU BACK IN. THAT BASICALLY YOU'RE A NAIL STICKING OUT FROM THEIR POINT OF VIEW. >> IN MY EDUCATION, I HAD ALWAYS BEEN EXPOSED TO EUROPEAN ART, YOU KNOW, AND THERE WAS VERY LITTLE AFRICAN-AMERICAN ART AT THAT TIME. AND WHEN I CAME TO NEW YORK, IT WAS AT THE BEGINNING OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT AND I FELT I HAD A LOT TO SAY AND I WANTED TO USE BLACK IMAGES AND I JUST WANTED TO BE INVOLVED WITH BLACK ARTISTS, BLACK EDUCATORS. AND SO THAT'S WHAT I DID. >> ONE DAY, I'M IN THE GALLERY, AND I'M IN THE BACK, AND I NOTICE THAT 'CAUSE I WAS DOING BOTH BLACK AND WHITE PEOPLE THAT'S WHAT I ALWAYS WANTED TO DO, I JUST WANTED TO DO PEOPLE. AND I NOTICED ALL OF THE IMAGES OF BLACK PEOPLE, ANYTHING BLACK WAS HANGING ON THE WALL. THERE WAS NOTHING OF MINE ON THE BLACK IT WAS ALL OUT IN THE THAT WORK WAS IN GROUP SHOWS AND THINGS. SO I GO TO THE DEALER AND I SAID, "LOOK, YOU'RE NOT SHOWING THE BLACK PEOPLE I DO." SHE SAID, "THEY DON'T SELL." SHE SAID, "THEY DON'T SELL." AND THERE WAS SOME OTHER ARTISTS IN THE GALLERY, VERY WELL-KNOWN ARTISTS RAPHAEL SOYER, CHAIM GROSS, AND PEOPLE LIKE THAT I SAID, "WELL, YOU SHOW THEIR WORK. YOU SHOW WHEN THEY CAME OVER FROM EUROPE." I SAID, "YOU SHOW ALL THEIR WORK. YOU SHOW THEM ON THE LOWER EAST SIDE, YOU SHOW THEIR WHOLE STORY. AND THIS IS MY STORY, YOU KNOW, THIS IS WHERE I COME FROM." AND SHE SAID, "WELL, I JUST DON'T THINK IT SELLS." AND I REALIZED THEN I HAD TO GO OUT AND FIGHT. >> NONE OF THESE GUYS HAD GALLERIES IN NEW YORK. AND I COULD SEE, YOU KNOW, THAT THE ANGER WAS THERE. A LITTLE BITTERNESS ABOUT NOT BEING RECOGNIZED. >> THE FLD OF AMERICAN ART, SUCH THAT IT WAS, BOTH INSTITUTIONALLY AND IN ACADEMIA, WAS MUCH MORE NARROWLY DEFINED. AND WITHIN THAT, I WOULD SAY, BLACK ARTISTS WERE PROBABLY, OR AFRICAN-AMERICAN ARTISTS, WERE THE ONES WHO WERE MOST SEVERELY MARGINALIZED OR ABSENT FROM THE STUDY. >> WE STARTED DEMANDING THAT THE FINE ART WORLD WRITE ABOUT US AND TALK ABOUT US. AND, OF COURSE, THE FINE ART WORLD KIND OF BACKED INTO THIS AND WHAT THEY WANTED TO DO WAS HAVE ALL-BLACK SHOWS, PUT EVERYBODY TOGETHER. FORGET ABOUT THE THEME, FORGET ABOUT THE TECHNIQUE, FORGET ABOUT WHAT YOU DID, ABSTRACT, REALISM, WHATEVER. IT'S JUST BLACK SHOW. >> YOU KNOW, IT'S THE WHITE ESTABLISHMENT, AND, THEY WERE NOT REALLY ADDRESSING THE BLACK ARTISTS AT THAT TIME. AND BENNY SAID, "HEY, COME ON. YOU'VE GOT TO GET THIS TOGETHER." AND WE CAME FROM ALL OVER NEW YORK, FROM ALL OVER THE COUNTRY, AND BECAME INVOLVED IN THIS UNITED EFFORT TO HAVE OUR WORK SEEN AND SHOWN. >> WE SET UP PROTESTS AGAINST THE MET. AND AT FIRST, THE FUNNY THING WAS, IS THAT WE COULDN'T GET ANY PUBLICITY. WE'RE OUT FRONT, POLICE HORSES AND EVERYTHING, AND THE PEOPLE AT THE MET WITH THEIR NOSES TO THE WINDOW. NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS. IT WAS LIKE PROTESTING ST. PATRICK'S AND THINGS. AND WE COULDN'T GET ANYBODY TO NOTICE US. AND PEOPLE DRIVING ALONG ON BUSES SEEING THIS GROUP OF, WELL, ABOUT 95% BLACK PEOPLE. AND RAPHAEL SOYER, ALICE NEEL, JOHN DOBBS, MEL ROMAN, WHITE ARTISTS WITH US AND OUT MARCHING. IT GOT TO BE SO PUBLIC THAT THE NEW YORK TIMESFINALLY STARTED WRITING ABOUT IT. AND THEN WHEN THEY WERE FORCED TO HAVE SHOWS ABOUT US, THEY ALWAYS HAD THEM NEAR THE KITCHEN. THAT WAS ALWAYS IRONIC. IT WAS THE LAST STAGES OF THIS KIND OF THING. AND FINALLY, FINALLY, IT GOT TO THE POINT WHERE IT JUST HAD TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED THAT THERE WERE DIFFERENT ARTISTS, DIFFERENT CONCEPTS AND THINGS, WHICH WAS A BIG LEAP. >> WHEN I WAS LOOKING FOR SPACE AND CALLED UP REALTORS, YOU KNOW, THEIR SIGNS, "VACANCIES" IN THEIR BUILDINGS AND STUFF AND CALLED REALTORS, AND THEY WOULD SAY, "WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH THIS PLACE?" AND I SAID, "OH, I'M GOING TO OPEN A GALLERY." "WHAT KIND OF GALLERY ARE YOU GOING TO OPEN?" "IT'S GOING TO BE A BLACK GALLERY," RIGHT? AND THE RESPONSE WOULD BE, "WE DON'T SHOW BLACK VELVET IN OUR BUILDINGS," AND HANG UP. I MEAN, IT WAS THAT CLICK! "WE DON'T ALLOW BLACK VELVET PAINTINGS IN OUR BUILDING." CLICK. CLICK. I ACTUALLY NEVER DID THE RESEARCH TO FIND OUT WHETHER OR NOT BLACK ARTISTS PAINTED ON BLACK VELVET. I DON'T KNOW, RIGHT? THERE WERE THOSE IMAGES, THEY WERE CERTAINLY MADE FOR BLACK FOLKS TO BUY ON 42nd STREET, BUT DID BLACK ARTISTS ACTUALLY CREATE BLACK VELVET? I DON'T KNOW ANY BLACK ARTISTS THAT CREATED BLACK VELVET PAINTING, BUT THAT WAS THE RAP IN THE ART WORLD BLACK ARTISTS MAKE BLACK VELVET PAINTINGS, OR, THEY JUST DON'T MAKE ART. OH, MY DEAR. BLACKS DON'T MAKE ART. >> EARLY ON, YOU KNOW, IT WAS VERY DIFFICULT FOR AFRICAN-AMERICANS TO BUY ART. BECAUSE THERE WERE SO MANY OTHER PROBLEMS AND OTHER NEEDS, AND THOSE NEEDS WERE AN EDUCATION, HAVING A HOME, OKAY? DOING SO MANY OTHER THINGS. SO ART WAS LIKE ICING ON THE CAKE. YOU KNOW, I MEAN, IF YOU TOLD YOUR MOTHER OR FATHER THAT YOU WERE GOING INTO THE ART SCENE, YOU KNOW, BECOME AN ARTIST, MY GOD, I'LL NEVER FORGET. ROMARE TOLD ME HIS MOTHER CRIED FOR DAYS, YOU KNOW. I MEAN, HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SURVIVE? >> THE ART CRITICS WOULD HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS, BECAUSE THEY SAW IT AS BEING SOCIAL PROPAGANDA, DIDACTIC, DA-DA-DA-DA. AND THEY KEPT THEMSELVES ABOVE THAT. >> ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WAS SAID A LOT ABOUT WHY IT'S DIFFICULT TO BRING BLACK ARTISTS INTO OUR GALLERIES IS THE WHOLE SOCIAL THING. YOU KNOW, YOU HAVE TO BE ABLE TO EAT WITH THE COLLECTOR. YOU KNOW, YOU HAVE TO BE ABLE TO HOLD A CONVERSATION IN THESE SOCIAL SETTINGS. YOU KNOW, IT WAS LIKE, WHAT, PEOPLE CAN'T TALK? WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY HERE? WHAT'S YOUR POINT HERE? BUT THAT BECAME LIKE THE REAL IN THEIR MINDS A REAL OBSTACLE TO BEING ABLE TO SHOW BLACK ARTISTS, WAS THAT BLACK ARTISTS WOULDN'T MAKE OUT TOO WELL AT A DINNER PARTY. AND A LOT OF ART BUSINESS IS DONE OVER FOOD AND ALCOHOL. AND WE DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU NIGGERS ARE GONNA SAY. >> OUR IMAGES WERE INCREDIBLY NEGATIVE. YOU HAVE TO REALIZE ALSO THAT, FRONT PAGE, "BLACK MAN KILLS ANOTHER PERSON." NORMALLY, "BLACK MAN KILLS ANOTHER WHITE PERSON," THEN ALL OF THE SUDDEN, IT WAS SPLATTERED EVERYWHERE, AND THAT'S WHAT WE SAW IN TERMS OF IMAGES. YOU COULDN'T HOLD A WHITE WOMAN'S HAND OR SMACK ANYBODY ON TELEVISION UNLESS YOU GOT HUNG. AND WE GOT TIRED OF THOSE FILMS WHERE YOU GO IN THE FILM OKAY, WHEN IS THE BROTHER GONNA DIE? IT'S ALL ABOUT WATCHING WHEN THE BROTHER'S GONNA DIE. YOU KNOW, 'CAUSE YOU KNEW HE WAS GONNA DIE IF HE'S IN THE FILM. IT'S JUST A MATTER OF TIME. IF HE AIN'T DYING, HE'S GOING TO BE WEEPING. IT'S GOING TO BE ONE OF THEM. >> HOLLYWOOD SAID, "DAMN, THERE IS A MARKET OUT HERE." BLACK FOLKS WILL GO TO THE MOVIES TO SEE BLACK FOLKS BE BAD-ASS. SO THEY STARTED MAKING BAD-ASS FILMS. >> YOU KNOW, ALL OF THE SUDDEN, YOU HAVE PEOPLE THAT SAY, "RIGHT ON, TAKE HIS HEAD OFF." YOU WANTED TO HAVE SOMETHING TO CHEER FOR. THEN THEY TOOK IT TO ANOTHER LEVEL. THEY TOOK IT TO ANOTHER LEVEL BECAUSE ALL OF THE SUDDEN, THAT'S ALL THEY TURNED OUT. WESTERNS WEREN'T KICKING. ARMY FILMS WEREN'T KICKING BECAUSE OF VIETNAM. AND ALL THAT STUFF WAS GOING ON DURING THAT PERIOD, AND HERE COMES SOME BLACK FILMMAKER, HERE'S INCOME. LET'S GO AND MAKE SOME INCOME, AND THAT'S WHAT IT CAME DOWN TO. >> THE MAJORITY OF 1970s EARLY BLACKSPLOITATION POSTERS WOULD FEATURE EITHER A CAR, A BUNCH OF WOMEN, WITH GUNS OR PIMPS OR DRUGS. SOMETHING RELATING TO THE GHETTO, THE CRIME, THE STREETS. THE THINGS THAT WERE ILLEGAL. >> THEY WERE MAKING THESE MOVIES FOR A BLACK AUDIENCE. RIGHT? AND SO THEY SAID, "OKAY, HOW DO WE SELL THIS TO A BLACK AUDIENCE?" AND I THINK THAT WHAT THEY DID WAS THEY LOOKED AT THE IMAGES OF THE "MILITANT" IMAGES OF STRENGTH THAT WERE COMING OUT OF THE MORE RADICAL FRINGES OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT. AND SAYING, "OKAY, I CAN USE THIS TO SELL THESE GANGSTERS ON THE STREET. I CAN USE THIS IMAGERY TO SELL THE STORIES THAT WE'RE TELLING." YOU TAKE THE CULTURAL TRADITIONS OF A PEOPLE, RIGHT? PRESENT THEM AS YOUR OWN. AND THEN SELL THEM FOR PROFIT. >> PEOPLE JUDGE EVERYTHING BY THE MESSAGE THAT THEY RECEIVE, IMMEDIATELY. WHETHER IT'S GOOD OR BAD, WHETHER IT'S BLACK OR WHITE. WHETHER IT'S RIGHT OR WRONG. PRIMARILY, MOST OF THE ART WORK WAS CREATED BY THE STUDIOS. ONE STUDIO IN PARTICULAR, AIP, PROBABLY HAD HALF A DOZEN ARTISTS CREATING THE BLACKSPLOITATION POSTERS. ALL OF THEM LOOK KIND OF SIMILAR SO YOU KNOW THAT THE SAME ARTIST WAS INVOLVED, OR THE SAME GROUP OF ARTISTS. UNTIL 1975, '76, OVER, BECAUSE EVERYBODY GOT TIRED OF THE STEREOTYPICAL PIMPS AND GUNS. ADVERTISING IN AMERICA IS VERY WELL, SOME PEOPLE CAN SAY IT'S VERY CLEVER, AND INDEED SOME OF IT IS, BUT WHEN IT COMES TO MOVIE POSTERS, THE MAJORITY IS NOT VERY CLEVER AT ALL. BUT WHEN IT COMES TO FOREIGN POSTERS AND THE ART WORK THAT GOES ALONG WITH IT, YOU REALLY START TO SENSE THAT IT'S NOT JUST ADVERTISING, THAT IT'S ALSO ART. THEY WENT TO GREATER EXTENT TO FIND A GOOD ARTIST THAT WOULD TRULY PROVOKE THE VIEWER IN SEEING THIS POSTER TO WANT TO COME IN THROUGH THE ART WORK RATHER THAN THROUGH THE COMMERCIAL APPROACH OF A TYPICAL AMERICAN ADVERTISING PCE. >> WE HAVE TO TAKE BLAME, AT THE SAME TIME, FOR A LOT OF THINGS THAT HAPPENED, BECAUSE WE SUBSCRIBE TO A LOT OF COMMERCIALISM. AND AS A RESULT OF THAT SUBSCRIPTION, A LOT OF PEOPLE CATER TO IT. THEIR WORK STARTS TO REFLECT THAT. UM... ONCE THE WORD IS OUT THAT THIS VEIN OR THIS GENRE OF ART IS SELLING, THEN YOU HAVE COPYCATS AND IMITATORS AND PEOPLE WHO WANT TO CASH IN ON THAT CROP, SO TO SAY. SO, THE ARTISTS HAVE TO REALLY BE CAREFUL IN TERMS OF THEIR WORK IS IT REALLY THEIR WORK? IS IT REALLY WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY? OR ARE THEY SAYING IT BECAUSE IT'S POPULAR OR ARE THEY SAYING IT BECAUSE THAT'S THE COOL THING OR THAT'S THE HIP THING OR THAT IT'S GOING TO LAND THEM SOME FINANCIAL SUCCESS IN THE "ART WORLD," OPPOSING TO THIS BEING A PASSION, THIS BEING SOMETHING YOU TRULY BELIEVE IN, THIS BEING SOMETHING THAT, IN 20 YEARS, IT'S STILL GOING TO STAND. >> THERE WAS A VERY DEFINITE DEMARCATION BETWEEN ARTISTS WHO DID FIGURATIVE WORK AND ARTISTS WHO DID "WESTERN-STYLE" ABSTRACTION. AND THERE WAS A BIAS IN THE COMMUNITY, IN TERMS OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY IN THE SPACES WHERE ARTISTS COULD SHOW IN THAT COMMUNITY FOR WORK THAT WAS FIGURATIVE WORK, BECAUSE THEY FELT THAT THAT WAS WORK THAT WAS NATIONALIST AND EXPRESSIVE OF THE BLACK EXPERIENCE. >> I UNDERSTAND A BROTHER PAINTING PROBLEMS, AND I'M ALL FOR THAT. I MEAN, WE COULDN'T GET IN ABSTRACT ART. I MEAN, THE BROTHERS, I MEAN, THE BLACK RACE WAS SUFFERING, SO THESE GUYS ARE PAINTING FIGURATIVE THINGS, THAT'S UNDERSTANDABLE. THEY'RE GOING TO GET UP IN THERE AND START TAKE DURING THE DEPRESSION. PICASSO PAINTED THE GUERNICA, 1939. THAT'S A BIG BREAK. I LOVE THE PAINTING. MY MOTHER'S AT THE KITCHEN TABLE. YOU KNOW, WHAT IF SOMEBODY SAID, "PICASSO PAINTED GUERNICA"? EVEN THE WHITE PEOPLE IN CHICAGO, THEY'D, WHAT'S THAT GOT TO DO WITH YOU GETTING THE MEAL ON THE TABLE? >> LET'S FACE IT, WHEN YOU GO TO THE MUSEUM AND YOU LOOK AT ABSTRACT ART, YOU SEE WORK PRODUCED BY CAUCASIAN MALES, PREDOMINANTLY. SO THERE'S NO CONNECTION TO IT FOR YOU AS A PERSON OF COLOR. AND IT'S UNFAIR, BUT IT'S JUST THE WAY IT IS. SO OUR CHALLENGE AS ARTISTS IS TO RISE ABOVE THAT AND FIGURE OUT WAYS TO SAY, "I'M GOING TO DO THIS IRRESPECTIVE OF WHETHER OR NOT YOU BELIEVE,"' AND TO CONTINUE TO PUSH FOR IT. AND I THINK THE ONLY WAY TO DO THAT ARTISTICALLY, OUR RESPONSIBILITY AS ARTISTS, IS TO JUST DO THE WORK. I SAY THAT, JUST WORK. THAT'S OUR MAIN RESPONSIBILITY TO HELP CHANGE THAT. >> THERE WAS A SHOW WHERE MY WORK WAS EXHIBITED, AND ONE PORTRAIT IN PARTICULAR FASCINATED THIS GENTLEMAN, A CAUCASIAN GENTLEMAN. HE CAME OVER TO ME, HE SAYS, "CAN YOU DO WHITE PEOPLE? CAN YOU PAINT WHITE PEOPLE?" I WAS LIKE, SURE, BUT IT JUST SHOCKS ME THAT SOMEONE WOULD THINK THAT 'CAUSE PAINTING IS JUST ABOUT COLOR, WHATEVER COLOR YOU ARE. GET THE PAINTS, MIX THEM TOGETHER AND THERE YOU GET YOUR PERSON. I DID THIS CARD SERIES, AND PEOPLE WERE FASCINATED BY IT. AND THE COMMENT WAS MADE THAT, YOU KNOW, "IT'S WONDERFUL, BEAUTIFUL, BUT WHY WOULD I WANT THAT IN MY HOME?" >> I HAD AN ART DEALER I WORKED WITH. HE CALLED ME AND HE WANTED TO INTERVIEW ME, AND MY NAME ISN'T, I GUESS, MAYBE THE MOST BLACK NAME YOU COULD FIND. IT WASN'T LIKE IT WAS LIKE LEROY JACKSON'S SLIDE PORTFOLIO OR SOMETHING, SO HE COULD READ INTO THAT. SO I WENT UP TO THE GALLERY AND HE WAS SHOCKED TO SEE I WAS BLACK, AND HE SAID, "TO BE HONEST WITH YOU, I DIDN'T KNOW YOU WERE BLACK." YOU KNOW, I GUESS PEOPLE HAVE THEIR EXPECTATIONS OF WHAT BLACK ART IS. >> IT'S ALMOST LIKE WE'VE RENT OUR CULTURE FROM THE MASSES. BECAUSE IT'S BEEN PUT OUT FOR SO LONG THAT BLACK ART LOOKS LIKE THIS, SO WE HAVE SUBSCRIBED TO THAT NOTION THAT IF IT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE THIS, THEN IT'S NOT BLACK ART. AND THAT HAPPENS, I THINK, ACROSS THE BOARD, ARTISTICALLY, FASHION-WISE. WHAT WE DO SOCIALLY, WHAT WE DO POLITICALLY, YOU KNOW. WE'RE ALL SUPPOSED TO LIKE THE SAME THINGS, WE'RE ALL SUPPOSED TO DO THE SAME THING. WELL, HE'S BLACK, AREN'T YOU GOING TO VOTE FOR HIM? YOU KNOW. >> IF I DO A PAINTING OF ORANGES AND SOMEONE SEES IT AS NOT BLACK ART TO THEM, EVEN THOUGH TO ME IT IS. SO, MY QUESTION IS, IF A WHITE PERSON PAINTS A BLACK PERSON, IS THAT BLACK ART? YOU KNOW, I THOUGHT BLACK ART WAS ANYTHING CREATED BY A BLACK PERSON. YOU KNOW, IF I DO AN ABSTRACT PAINTING, THAT'S NOT BLACK ART, THAT'S ABSTRACT PAINTING, BUT IF I DRAW A BROTHER PAINTING AN ABSTRACT PAINTING, THEN IT'S BLACK ART. SO IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY THING. >> GENERALLY, WHEN I SAY I'M A PAINTER, THEY GO, "OH, THAT'S NICE." YOU KNOW. AND THE EXPECTATION IS THAT THEY'RE GOING TO SEE THE MAN HOLDING THE BABY, YOU KNOW, OR SOMEONE WRAPPED IN KINTE CLOTH, OR SOMETHING TO THAT EFFECT. AND THEY'RE REALLY SURPRISED WHEN THEY SEE THE WORK THAT I DO. >> PICASSO, YOU KNOW, TOOK BLACK SCULPTURE FROM AFRICA AND EMBODIED THAT IN HIS WORK. AND, YOU KNOW, THE LIST CAN GO ON AND ON ABOUT HOW OTHER ARTISTS HAVE USED OUR CULTURE AND IN SOME WAYS EXPLOITED IT AND, YOU KNOW, PUT IT INTO THEIR ART AND APPROPRIATED IT, AND THEIR ART HAS TRANSITIONED BEYOND WHAT WAS THE STATUS QUO AT THAT TIME IN THAT GENERATION. SO, I THINK WE NEED TO DO THE SAME. >> I KNOW THAT A LOT OF BLACK MEN HAVE A LOT ON THEIR PLATE. I THINK THAT'S PROBABLY ONE OF THE BIGGEST ISSUES RIGHT NOW, AS FAR AS HOW WE REPRESENT THE WORK FORCE AND HOW WE REPRESENT OURSELVES. I MEAN, A LOT OF PEOPLE WATCH MTV. I MEAN, HOW DO YOU SEE BLACK MEN REPRESENTED ON MTV? WE CAN DO MORE, I SHOULD SAY. >> WE HAVE ISSUES OF STRUGGLES AND ISSUES OF, YOU KNOW, BAD POLITICS. ISSUES OF, YOU KNOW, SEGREGATION OR SEPARATISM. AND ISSUES OF THOSE WHO PROFIT FROM THAT. THE POLITICS WILL ALWAYS BE THE POLITICS, THE ISSUES WILL ALWAYS BE THE ISSUES. AND, WHAT DO YOU DO ABOUT IT? YOU KNOW, AND THAT'S THE QUESTION, WHAT DO YOU DO ABOUT IT? >> THE MAINSTREAM ART WORLD IS NOT NECESSARILY THE MOST OPEN PLACE FOR ARTISTS OF COLOR AND WOMEN ARTISTS AND ARTISTS WHO DO DIFFERENT TYPES OF THINGS. >> WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE WORKS OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN ARTISTS AND YOU LOOK AT THE QUALITY OF THE WORK, I MEAN, THEIR WORK IS UNDERVALUED. THAT'S PROBABLY WHY I CAN AFFORD TO BUY AS MUCH AS I CAN, AND I THINK IF THEY WERE COMPARABLE, IF THE SAME QUALITY WAS COMPARABLE TO SOME OF THE OTHER MAINSTREAM ARTISTS, I PROBABLY COULDN'T AFFORD TO BUY IT. SO, IN THAT RESPECT, IT'S A PLUS, BUT I ALSO THINK THAT THESE ARTISTS NEED TO GET EQUAL PRICES FOR THE QUALITY OF WORK THEY'RE DOING. >> WE NEED TO VALIDATE OURSELVES. SO ONE OF THE THINGS THAT, I THINK, ART CAN DO FOR THE COMMUNITY IS, BRING THE WHOLE LEVEL OF COMMUNICATION, BRING THE WHOLE LEVEL OF PROCESS AT A POINT WHERE IT CAN START TO SOLVE SOME OF THE PROBLEMS OR SOLVE SOME OF THE MYSTERIES THAT HAVE MANAGED TO ELUDE US FOR SO MANY YEARS, IN TERMS OF ESTABLISHING OUR OWN ACCESS, OPPOSING TO WAITING FOR ACCESS. >> BLACK PEOPLE HAVE NOT BEEN WELCOMED IN THE MUSEUMS AND STUFF LIKE THAT. SO THERE ISN'T THAT TRADITION. >> WE HAVE TO SUPPORT IT FOR IT TO CONTINUE. AND THAT IS A KEY POINT. WE HAVE TO SUPPORT IT. NO ONE ELSE CAN. WE HAVE TO DO IT FOR OURSELVES. AND WE HAVE TO SEE HOW IMPORTANT OUR ARTISTS ARE. >> THERE'S ONE PROBLEM THAT THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN VISUAL ARTISTS HAVE, AND IT STILL IS A MAJOR PROBLEM. THERE IS NO AFRICAN-AMERICAN PERSON DOING ART CRITICISM FOR ANY OF THE MAJOR NEWSPAPERS. NONE. THERE'S NEVER BEEN ONE. AND THERE STILL ARE NONE. AND SO THE PROBLEM IS, EVERYTHING STILL HAS TO PASS THROUGH THE WHITE CRITICS. THE WHITE CRITICS, NO MATTER HOW GOOD THEY ARE, NO MATTER HOW IMPARTIAL THEY ARE, THEY DETERMINE WHETHER THIS IS GOOD ART, BAD ART. AND THAT'S LIKE PLANTATION THING. THAT'S ALMOST LIKE GETTING A NOTE FROM YOUR MASTER TO SAY WHETHER YOU'RE GOOD OR BAD. >> THE IDEA, FIRST OF ALL, FOR ME, OF SPLITTING IT UP, SAYING THERE'S BLACK ART OR WHITE ART, I THINK THERE'S ONLY ART. THERE'S EUROPEAN ART, THERE'S AFRICAN ART, THERE'S ALL THESE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ART, BUT, I THINK THAT, TO DEFINE ART AS BEING BLACK OR WHITE IS, YOU KNOW, SORT OF NEBULOUS. >> MY WORK SPEAKS TO A VERY BROAD AUDIENCE, ESPECIALLY ONE WHO IS INTELLECTUALLY STIMULATED OR LOOKING FOR INTELLECTUAL STIMULATION. BECAUSE IT'S NOT NECESSARILY ABOUT RACE, IT'S NOT NECESSARILY ABOUT ETHNICITY, IT'S ABOUT PEOPLE. >> PROBABLY, WHAT HAPPENS TO A LOT OF PEOPLE, YOU'RE CREATING WORK WITH THAT THOUGHT IN YOUR HEAD IS THIS WORK REPRESENTATIONAL OF MY BLACKNESS? AND THAT'S KIND OF AN UNFAIR POSITION TO PUT ANY ARTIST IN. YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO JUST CREATE WORK. >> WHEN I THINK OF GOYA OR VAN GOGH, I'M NOT THINKING OF WHITEY. I MEAN I LIKE VAN GOGH. IT RISES ABOVE ANY DIFFERENCE IN THAT SENSE. BUT THAT ALSO MEANS WE'RE ALL EQUAL. >> WE ALWAYS SAID, WHAT WE WOULD LIKE TO HAVE IS A LEVEL PLAYING FLD. WE WOULD LIKE TO PUT OUR WORK TO BE LOOKED AT FOR WHAT IT IS. IF IT'S NOT ACCEPTABLE, OKAY, BUT DISQUALIFY IT OR DON'T SELECT IT BECAUSE IT'S NOT ACCEPTABLE. DON'T JUST DO A BROADBRUSH THING AND SWEEP US OUT. >> EVERYONE ELSE GETS A CHANCE TO SEE THEMSELVES AS THAT IDEAL. AND I DON'T KNOW WHY WE SHOULDN'T. AND YOU KNOW, I THINK THAT THERE IS BEAUTY IN ALL THE THINGS THAT WE HAVE BEEN THROUGH, AND THERE'S GOING TO BE BEAUTY IN ALL THE OTHER STEPS THAT WE MAKE AND ALL THE OTHER THINGS THAT WE CONQUER. BUT THERE'S ALSO JUST BEAUTY IN THE FACT THAT WE ARE BEAUTIFUL. AND I THINK THAT THAT, TOO, HAS ITS PLACE. >> I JUST WANT THE WORLD TO KNOW ABOUT US, WHO WE ARE, AND JUST THAT WE'RE SO WONDERFUL. AND I TRY TO DO IT THROUGH MY PAINTING. >> IN ART, ARTISTS' STYLE WILL CHANGE CONSTANTLY. I MEAN, IF YOU LOOK AT PICASSO AS AN EXAMPLE. PICASSO CHANGES ART AS MUCH AS HE PROBABLY CHANGES WIVES. YOU KNOW, BUT YOU KNOW, THE BOTTOM LINE IS, YOU KNOW YOU HAVE TO CHANGE BECAUSE IT'S INTERNAL, AND YOU START HAVING THIS, WHAT IS BLACK ART AND WHAT BLACK ART IS, AS AN ARTIST, YOU HAVE TO TRY TO EXPLAIN HUMANITY IN ANY WAY THAT YOU POSSIBLY CAN. AND THEN, YOU KNOW, WHEN YOU START SAYING YOU LIMIT YOURSELF. LIKE, WHEN THEY TALK ABOUT BALLPLAYERS, LET'S SAY, BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT EVERYBODY KIND OF UNDERSTANDS. THEY TALK ABOUT MICHAEL JORDAN, THEY DON'T SAY HE'S THE BEST BLACK BALLPLAYER, THEY SAY HE WAS THE BEST BALLPLAYER. >> IF YOU'RE MICHAEL JORDAN, YOU'RE MICHAEL JORDAN, THE RULES ARE THERE. WE ALL KNOW THE RULES. YOU KNOW, NO ONE CAN TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ANYBODY. SO, THAT REALLY FASCINATES ME. AND I WONDER LIKE, OH, WOW, IF OTHER ASPECTS OF LIFE COULD BE LIKE THAT, YOU KNOW, THEN WE'LL HAVE REACHED, YOU KNOW, LIKE THE NIRVANA, I MEAN, LIKE THE PARADISE OF DEMOCRACY. >> ART THROUGHOUT HISTORY, IN TERMS OF THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, HAS BEEN SERVED AS ONE OF THE BEST WAYS TO DOCUMENT THAT EXPERIENCE. AND TO REALLY AND DOCUMENT IT TRUTHFULLY. >> IF YOU REALLY THINK ABOUT IT, FROM AN HISTORIAN'S STANDPOINT, THAT'S ALL THAT'S LEFT WHEN GENERATIONS DIE OFF. THEY LOOK AT ART AND THAT'S HOW THEY MEASURE THAT CIVILIZATION'S SUCCESS. >> YOU CAN BE A SUPERHERO IF YOU WANT TO, YOU KNOW. YOU CAN REALLY HELP SAVE THOSE WHO NEED A VOICE. AND IF THAT'S HOW YOU'RE GOING TO DO IT, IS THROUGH YOUR HANDS, BY PAINTING, THEN IT'S A GREAT THING. >> EVERYBODY, YOU KNOW, LIKE, NOT JUST BLACK FOLK. WE ALL HAVE OUR PROBLEMS. YOU KNOW. WE'VE GOT FAMILY PROBLEMS AND SOME, AMONG PROBLEMS, AND WORK STRESS, YOU KNOW? AND EVERYBODY NEEDS THAT RELEASE. EVERYBODY IS ALWAYS ADDRESSING THEIR ANGER, EVERYBODY'S ADDRESSING THEIR RAGE, AND EVERYBODY'S ALWAYS ADDRESSING THEIR PAIN. BUT I GOT TO A POINT WHEN I WAS IN SCHOOL WHERE I WAS LIKE, WHAT IF I CAN DO COMPELLING IMAGES ABOUT THE FACT THAT I FEEL GOOD? LET ME TAKE THAT CHALLENGE. LET ME TAKE THAT CHALLENGE 'CAUSE THAT'S NOT SO EASY TO DO, TO MAKE AN IMAGE THAT'S PRETTY AND TO MAKE AN IMAGE THAT'S COMFORTING AND MAKE AN IMAGE THAT MAKES PEOPLE FEEL GOOD. >> I THINK IT'S CHANGED SLOWLY BUT NOT A LOT. IT'S VERY, VERY DIFFICULT TO GET INTO A GALLERY UNLESS IT'S SPECIFICALLY LOOKING FOR AFROCENTRIC ART. AFROCENTRIC ART EVEN HAS A BETTER CHANCE THAN AN AFRO-AMERICAN ARTIST WHO IS PAINTING IN A CLASSICAL STYLE OR ABSTRACT STYLE OR ANY OTHER STYLE, BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT THEY'RE USED TO. THAT'S WHAT THEY'RE LOOKING FOR, THAT'S WHAT THEY EXPECT. >> THINGS HAVEN'T CHANGED THAT MUCH. BLACK PEOPLE ARE STILL ON THE BOTTOM OF THE LADDER HERE IN THIS COUNTRY. LAST HIRED, FIRST FIRED. THAT STILL GOES. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS READ THE NEWSPAPERS AND SEE. >> BLACK FOLKS WERE MOSTLY GUARDS AND MAINTENANCE PEOPLE AND CAFETERIA HELP. THERE'S A LITTLE BIT OF SHIFT IN THAT, BUT THEY'RE MOSTLY THE GUARDS AND THE MAINTENANCE AND THE CAFETERIA HELP TODAY, 30 YEARS LATER. >> WE'RE NOT FURTHER ALONG COLLECTIVELY IN SOCIETY. PART OF THE REASON IS, WE FALL VICTIM TO DISTRACTIONS. YOU SEE A HANDFUL OF PEOPLE IN THE MEDIA BEING SUCCESSFUL OR PORTRAYED AS SUCCESSFUL AND THEN WE THINK EVERYTHING IS FINE. BUT MEANWHILE, THE COLLECTIVE OR THE MASSES ARE SUFFERING OR STRUGGLING TO GET BY, OR GRINDING SO TO SAY. IT'S A DAY-TO-DAY EXISTENCE FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE. >> WE LIVE IN AN ERA NOW WHERE WE DON'T THINK ANYMORE. THINGS ARE GIVEN TO US. GREAT, I PAINT PRETTY PICTURES, BUT THEN WHAT DOES THAT MEAN IN THE END? THE PICTURES CAN'T JUST BE PRETTY AND HAVE NO REAL MEANING. >> THERE'S SO MUCH MORE TO FIGHT ABOUT NOW THAN EVEN THAN THERE WAS IN THE '60s AND '70s. IT'S NOT JUST ARTISTS. WE ALL HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO LOOK AT THE SITUATION WE FIND OURSELVES HERE IN AMERICA AND IN THE WORLD AND TRY TO FIND WAYS TO IMPROVE THAT SITUATION. >> SYSTEMATICALLY, BLACK PEOPLE HAVE BEEN KEPT OUT, AND I THINK THE DOORS ARE GOING TO SWING OPEN. I THINK ONCE THEY SWING OPEN, IT'S GOING TO BE HUGE. AND PEOPLE ARE GOING TO REALIZE BECAUSE I DON'T THINK THERE'S I THINK ART HAS BEEN DEAD SINCE THE 1950s. HERE. THAT'S MY OPINION. BUT I THINK THAT BLACK ARTISTS ALWAYS PROGRESS. THEY GOT MORE ENERGY. THEY GOT MORE BOUNCE. AND, IF YOU DON'T MIND ME SAYING, IT HAS MORE RHYTHM. >> THERE IS A STRUGGLE. I DON'T KNOW WHERE IT'S GOING. BUT I THINK THAT... I THINK THE STRUGGLE BEGINS WITH ARTISTS. NOT TO BE SWAYED BY WHAT'S MARKETABLE AND WHAT IS... WHAT IS FASHIONABLE. BECAUSE SOME ARTISTS GO LIKE, OH, IF I DO THIS KIND OF ARTS, I'M NOT GOING TO GET INTO THE MUSEUMS, I'M NOT GOING TO GET INTO THESE GALLERIES. SO THEY KIND OF JUST TOW THE LINE. >> ALL OF US BENEFIT FROM WHATEVER HAPPENED BEFORE US. EVERYTHING. I MEAN, WE DON'T START ANYTHING. YOU KNOW, WE'RE USING WHAT OTHERS HAVE DONE. AND IN OUR AREAS, WE CAN MAKE CONTRIBUTIONS THAT WILL GIVE TO OTHERS. I'VE TRIED TO THANK SOME PEOPLE WHO HELPED ME SO MUCH, AND MORE TIMES THAN NOT, THEY SAY, "YOU CAN'T DO ANYTHING FOR ME. PASS IT ON." AND SO WHEN I GET A CHANCE TO DO SOMETHING, SOMEONE NEEDS SOMETHING, THEN I DO THAT, AND IF THEY TRY TO THANK ME, FORGET IT, YOU CAN'T DO ANYTHING FOR ME. I'M ALL RIGHT. PASS IT ON. AND THAT'S WHAT ALL OF US SHOULD THINK ABOUT. >> I HAVE A 15-YEAR-OLD SON, AND I HAVE THREE SONS. AND MY YOUNGEST IS 15. AND SO ONE DAY HE WAS SITTING IN OUR LIVING ROOM, AND IN THE LIVING ROOM, OVER MY FIREPLACE, I HAVE A RICHARD YARDE. I HAVE A COUPLE OF BEARDEN COLLAGES. I HAVE A JAKE LAWRENCE. I HAVE SOME MEL EDWARDS' HANGING ON THE WALLS, SURROUNDED, BUT... HE LOOKED AROUND THE ROOM AND HE SAID, "ALL THESE PCES OF WORK ARE ABOUT BLACK PEOPLE." AND I SAID, "YEAH. THEY ARE." AND HE SAID, "I LIKE THAT." WE HAVE A LONG HISTORY. WE HAVE OUR STORIES. WE HAVE OUR BEAUTY TO CONTRIBUTE TO THIS COUNTRY. AND I, FOR ONE, TAKE DEEP PLEASURE IN THAT. >> IT'S JUST HUMAN BEINGS, YOU KNOW. WE AVERAGE TWO LEGS, TWO ARMS, HEADS, TWO EYES, DA-DA-DA-DA. WE LIVE A CERTAIN PERIOD OF TIME, DA-DA-DA. WE GET HUNGRY AND ALL THAT KIND OF STUFF. BUT WE'RE ALSO MORE THAN THAT. AND I HOPE THAT SOMETIMES THEY'LL SEE A SPARKLE OR SOMETHING TO MAKE THEM FEEL SORRY OR MAKE THEM LAUGH OR SOMETHING. THAT'S WHAT I HOPE. I HOPE THAT IT GOES BEYOND BEING A PICTURE. >> NO HUMAN BEING IS ANY BETTER THAN ANY OTHER HUMAN BEING. NO RACE IS ANY BETTER THAN ANY OTHER RACE. WE'RE ALL DOWN HERE DOING THE BEST WE CAN. AND EVERYBODY'S GOT BLOOD IN THEIR VEINS AS FAR AS I KNOW. EQUALITY, BEING EQUAL AND FAIR IN THE WORLD. AND IT'S A SHAME THAT WE HAD TO FIGHT FOR IT BECAUSE WE ARE EQUAL. YOU KNOW, GIVEN THAT BY THE CREATOR. >> A LOT OF PEOPLE WENT TO SLEEP. IT'S SORT OF DISAPPOINTING TO HEAR PEOPLE THINKING THE FIGHT IS OVER. BECAUSE IT'S NOT. THE FIGHT CONTINUES. >> THAT WAS GOOD, NO?

Contents

History

Pre-colonial, Antebellum and Civil War eras

Powder horn carved by John Bush, 1754.
Powder horn carved by John Bush, 1754.
Harriet Powers, Bible quilt, Mixed Media. 1898.
Harriet Powers, Bible quilt, Mixed Media. 1898.

The earliest evidence of African-American art in the United States is the work of skilled craftsmen slaves from New England. Two categories of slave craft items survive from colonial America: articles created for personal use by slaves and articles created for public use. Examples from the period between the 17th century and the early 19th century include: small drums, quilts, wrought-iron figures, baskets, ceramic vessels, and gravestones.[1][2]

Many of Africa’s most skilled slave artisans were hired out by slave owners. With the consent of their masters, some slave artisans also were able to keep a small percentage of the wages earned in their free time and thereby save enough money to purchase their, and their families', freedom.[3]

The public works of art produced by slave craftsmen were an important contribution to the Colonial economy. In New England and the Mid-Atlantic colonies, slaves were apprenticed as goldsmiths, cabinetmakers, engravers, carvers portrait painters, carpenters, masons and iron workers. The construction and decoration of the Janson House built on the Hudson River in 1712 was the work of African-Americans. Many of the oldest buildings in Louisiana, South Carolina and Georgia were built by craftsmen slaves.[2]

In the mid-eighteenth century, John Bush was a powder horn carver and soldier with the Massachusetts militia fighting with the British in the French and Indian War.[4][5] Patrick H. Reason, Joshua Johnson, and Scipio Moorhead were among the earliest known portrait artists, from the period of 1773–1887. Patronage by some white families allowed for private tutorship in special cases. Many of these sponsoring whites were abolitionists. The artists received more encouragement and were better able to support themselves in cities, of which there were more in the North and border states.

Harriet Powers (1837–1910) was an African-American folk artist and quilt maker from rural Georgia, United States, born into slavery. Now nationally recognized for her quilts, she used traditional appliqué techniques to record local legends, Bible stories, and astronomical events on her quilts. Only two of her late quilts have survived: Bible Quilt 1886 and Bible Quilt 1898. Her quilts are considered among the finest examples of 19th-century Southern quilting,.[6][7]

Like Powers, the women of Gee's Bend developed a distinctive, bold, and sophisticated quilting style based on traditional American (and African-American) quilts, but with a geometric simplicity. Although widely separated by geography, they have qualities reminiscent of Amish quilts and modern art. The women of Gee's Bend passed their skills and aesthetic down through at least six generations to the present.[8] At one time scholars believed slaves sometimes utilized quilt blocks to alert other slaves about escape plans during the time of the Underground Railroad,[9] but most historians do not agree. Quilting remains alive as form of artistic expression in the African-American community.

Post-Civil War

After the Civil War, it became increasingly acceptable for African American-created works to be exhibited in museums, and artists increasingly produced works for this purpose. These were works mostly in the European romantic and classical traditions of landscapes and portraits. Edward Mitchell Bannister, Henry Ossawa Tanner and Edmonia Lewis are the most notable of this time. Others include Grafton Tyler Brown, Nelson A. Primus and Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller.

The goal of widespread recognition across racial boundaries was first eased within America's big cities, including Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, New York, and New Orleans. Even in these places, however, there were discriminatory limitations. Abroad, however, African Americans were much better received. In Europe — especially Paris, France — these artists could express much more freedom in experimentation and education concerning techniques outside traditional western art. Freedom of expression was much more prevalent in Paris as well as Munich and Rome to a lesser extent.

The Harlem Renaissance to contemporary art

The Harlem Renaissance was one of the most notable movements in African-American art. Certain freedoms and ideas that were already widespread in many parts of the world at the time had begun to spread into the artistic communities United States during the 1920s. During this period notable artists included Richmond Barthé, Aaron Douglas, Lawrence Harris, Palmer Hayden, William H. Johnson, Sargent Johnson, John T. Biggers, Earle Wilton Richardson, Malvin Gray Johnson, Archibald Motley, Augusta Savage, Hale Woodruff, and photographer James Van Der Zee.

The establishment of the Harmon Foundation by art patron William E. Harmon in 1922 sponsored many artists through its Harmon Award and annual exhibitions. As it did with many such endeavors, the 1929 Great Depression largely ended funding for the arts for a time. While the Harmon Foundation still existed in this period, its financial support toward artists ended. The Harmon Foundation, however, continued supporting artists until 1967 by mounting exhibitions and offering funding for developing artists such as Jacob Lawrence.[10]

Midnight Golfer by Eugene J. Martin, mixed media collage on rag paper.
Midnight Golfer by Eugene J. Martin, mixed media collage on rag paper.

The US Treasury Department's Public Works of Art Project ineffectively attempted to provide support for artists in 1933. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA provided for all American artists and proved especially helpful to African-American artists. Artists and writers both gained work that helped them survive the Depression. Among them were Jacob Lawrence and Richard Wright. Politics, human and social conditions all became the subjects of accepted art forms.

Important cities with significant black populations and important African-American art circles included Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The WPA led to a new wave of important black art professors. Mixed media, abstract art, cubism, and social realism became not only acceptable, but desirable. Artists of the WPA united to form the 1935 Harlem Artists Guild, which developed community art facilities in major cities. Leading forms of art included drawing, sculpture, printmaking, painting, pottery, quilting, weaving and photography. By 1939, the costly WPA and its projects all were terminated.

In 1943, James A. Porter, a professor in the Department of Art at Howard University, wrote the first major text on African-American art and artists, Modern Negro Art.

Mid-20th century

In the 1950s and 1960s, few African-American artists were widely known or accepted. Despite this, The Highwaymen, a loose association of 26 African-American artists from Fort Pierce, Florida, created idyllic, quickly realized images of the Florida landscape and peddled some 200,000 of them from the trunks of their cars. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was impossible to find galleries interested in selling artworks by a group of unknown, self-taught African Americans,[11] so they sold their art directly to the public rather than through galleries and art agents. Rediscovered in the mid-1990s, today they are recognized as an important part of American folk history.[12][13]

The current market price for an original Highwaymen painting can easily bring in thousands of dollars. In 2004 the original group of 26 Highwaymen were inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.[14] Currently 8 of the 26 are deceased, including A. Hair, H. Newton, Ellis and George Buckner, A. Moran, L. Roberts, Hezekiah Baker and most recently Johnny Daniels. The full list of 26 can be found in the Florida Artists Hall of Fame, as well as various highwaymen and Florida art websites.

Jerry Harris, Dogon mother and child, constructed and carved wood with found objects, laminated clay (Bondo), and wooden dowels.
Jerry Harris, Dogon mother and child, constructed and carved wood with found objects, laminated clay (Bondo), and wooden dowels.

After the Second World War, some artists took a global approach, working and exhibiting abroad, in Paris, and as the decade wore on, relocated gradually in other welcoming cities such as Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Stockholm: Barbara Chase-Riboud, Edward Clark, Harvey Cropper, Beauford Delaney, Herbert Gentry,[15] Bill Hutson, Clifford Jackson,[16] Sam Middleton,[17] Larry Potter, Haywood Bill Rivers, Merton Simpson, and Walter Williams.[18][19]

Some African-American artists did make it into important New York galleries by the 1950s and 1960s: Horace Pippin, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, William T. Williams, Norman Lewis, Thomas Sills,[20] and Sam Gilliam were among the few who had successfully been received in a gallery setting. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and 1970s led artists to capture and express the times and changes. Galleries and community art centers developed for the purpose of displaying African-American art, and collegiate teaching positions were created by and for African-American artists. Some African-American women were also active in the feminist art movement in the 1970s. Faith Ringgold made work that featured black female subjects and that addressed the conjunction of racism and sexism in the U.S., while the collective Where We At (WWA) held exhibitions exclusively featuring the artwork of African-American women.[21]

By the 1980s and 1990s, hip-hop graffiti became predominate in urban communities. Most major cities had developed museums devoted to African-American artists. The National Endowment for the Arts provided increasing support for these artists.

Important collections of African-American art include the Walter O. Evans Collection of African American Art, the Paul R. Jones collections at the University of Delaware and University of Alabama, the David C. Driskell Art collection, the Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Mott-Warsh collection.

Kara Walker, a contemporary American artist, is known for her exploration of race, gender, sexuality, violence and identity in her artworks. Walker's silhouette images work to bridge unfinished folklore in the Antebellum South and are reminiscent of the earlier work of Harriet Powers. Her nightmarish yet fantastical images incorporate a cinematic feel. In 2007, Walker was listed among Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People in The World, Artists and Entertainers".[22]

Textile artists are part of African-American art history. According to the 2010 Quilting in America industry survey, there are 1.6 million quilters in the United States.[23]

Influential contemporary artists include Larry D. Alexander, Laylah Ali, Amalia Amaki, Emma Amos, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Dawoud Bey, Camille Billops, Mark Bradford, Edward Clark, Willie Cole, Robert Colescott, Louis Delsarte, David C. Driskell, Leonardo Drew, Mel Edwards, Ricardo Francis, Charles Gaines, Ellen Gallagher, Herbert Gentry, Sam Gilliam, David Hammons, Jerry Harris, Joseph Holston, Richard Hunt, Martha Jackson-Jarvis, Katie S. Mallory, M. Scott Johnson, Rashid Johnson, Joe Lewis, Glenn Ligon, James Little, Edward L. Loper, Sr., Alvin D. Loving, Kerry James Marshall, Eugene J. Martin, Richard Mayhew, Sam Middleton, Howard McCalebb, Charles McGill, Thaddeus Mosley, Sana Musasama, Senga Nengudi, Joe Overstreet, Martin Puryear, Adrian Piper, Howardena Pindell, Faith Ringgold, Gale Fulton Ross, Alison Saar, Betye Saar, John Solomon Sandridge, Raymond Saunders, John T. Scott, Joyce Scott, Gary Simmons, Lorna Simpson, Renee Stout, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Stanley Whitney, William T. Williams, Jack Whitten, Fred Wilson, Richard Wyatt, Jr., Richard Yarde, and Purvis Young, Kehinde Wiley, Mickalene Thomas, Barkley Hendricks, Jeff Sonhouse, William Walker, Ellsworth Ausby, Che Baraka, Emmett Wigglesworth, Otto Neals, Dindga McCannon, Terry Dixon (artist), Frederick J. Brown, and many others.

Black Women In Art

The Beginning

The earliest evidence of African-American art in the United States is the work of skilled craftsmen slaves from New England. Sewing, weaving, and quilting are all different forms of art and tradition to learn as a young Black women. “The skilled fabrication of functional and aesthetic objects has long been within their domain.”[24] These art forms play a major role in past and present society of a Black women. Another art form that we see a lot of today is, cornrows.

Cornrows

Cornrows or braids, also called canerows in the Caribbean, are an ancient traditional African style of hair grooming, in which the hair is braided very close to the scalp, using an underhand, upward motion to produce a continuous, raised row.[1]  Men and women can both wear cornrows.  The tradition of female hairstyling in cornrows has remained popular throughout Africa, particularly in the Horn of Africa and West Africa.Historically, male styling with cornrows can be traced as far back as the early nineteenth century to Ethiopia, where warriors and kings such as Tewodros II and Yohannes IV were depicted wearing cornrows. Cornrows hairstyles in Africa also meet a wide social domain of religion, kinship, status, age, ethnicity, and other attributes that can be express by a hairstyle.

During slavery, braids were often used to relay messages between slaves. They signaled that they were either going to escape. Or even used it for luxuries, such gold and seeds. Women slaves were initially perceived as a lesser threat. Because of this advantage they would hide symbols and items in their hair that would mean various things.

Modern Day Art

Some African-American women were also active in the feminist art movement in the 1970s. Faith Ringgold made work that featured black female subjects and that addressed the conjunction of racism and sexism in the U.S., while the collective Where We At (WWA) held exhibitions exclusively featuring the artwork of African-American women.[21]  Many modern day artist styles contained a purpose. Whether it was for a movement or personal beliefs, their artwork served as a message, a way to let the world to know how they felt. A Lot of modernization painting reflect the past in some way, shape or form. If that was a positive or negative reflection, that’s was up to solely the artist. Kara Walker, a contemporary American artist, is known for her exploration of race, gender, sexuality, violence and identity in her artworks. Walker's silhouette images work to bridge unfinished folklore in the Antebellum South and are reminiscent of the earlier work of Harriet Powers. Her nightmarish yet fantastical images incorporate a cinematic feel. In 2007, Walker was listed among Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People in The World, Artists and Entertainers".[22] Walker is one of those artist that uses her platform so her thoughts and words are acknowledged.

Material Girls

The Material Girls are a group of artists known as Chakaia Booker, Sonya Clark, Torkwase Dyson, Maya Freelon Asante, Maren Hassinger, Martha Jackson Jarvis, Joyce J. Scott, and Reneé Stout. “Material Girls is a refreshing departure from group exhibitions of African American artists based largely on their racial designation, with little or no additional binding or critical structure.”[24] Mounted by the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore, Maryland and curated by Michelle Joan Wilkinson, the group exhibition highlights the traditional and nontraditional media of these artists.

The exhibition includes work by Maren Hassinger. The section is dominated by Hassinger’s evocative installation LOVE, consisting of delicate pink plastic bags in a narrow pyramidal formation attached to the intersection of two walls.

Gestation, by Maya Freelon Asante, is featured throughout also. “The fragility of which resonates with Hassinger’s plastic bag installation.”[24]

Located in the central spaces of the exhibition are perhaps the boldest statements. Chakaia Booker’s abstracts refashioned tire compositions are a commanding force. “The relatively small space afforded Booker's assertive sculptures, however, limits the viewer’s ability to absorb works such as menacing, primordial abstraction Black Hole.” [24]

“Martha Jackson Jarvis large-scale organic formations made of stones and glass would have benefited from more space.”

A collection of combs and a wreath of human hair round out the first part of the exhibition, contributed by the intriguing Sonya Clark.

Torkwase Dyson, Joyce J. Scott, and Reneé Stout are featured in the last part of the exhibition space. These women fashion materials in a narrative and figurative manner; often drawing upon African spiritual practice and ritual material culture. Eshu Elegba, Dyson, Scott, and Stout take a decidedly figurative approach in their various modes of expression. “The importance of African cultural production as a source -- a critical thematic thread of this exhibition -- is embodied in Scott’s Inkisi: St. John the Conqueror.”[24] This collection of glass bottles, beads, wire, and coral responds to the corporeal structure and ideology of in the nkisi, a ritual object from the Central African Kongo peoples.

Scott’s Inkisi, a doll-like figure shrouded with small bottles filled with red coral “roots” invokes the Kongo nkisi as power object, healer, and a container of spirits while maintaining the mischievous decorative quality of the beads and coral embellishment.

“Material Girls” nests the production of the eight black females artists within two general ideological structures. “The core interpretation of the works exhibited appears to revolve around what the curator calls black women’s ‘adaptive strategy of ‘making it work’ into making artwork.” [24]

Even though the Material Girls displayed a museum of union and collaboration, that wasn’t always the case. The Black Arts Movement shows us that.

The Black Arts Movement

The movement has been seen as one of the most important times in African-American literature. It inspired black people to establish their own publishing houses, magazines, journals and art institutions. It led to the creation of African-American Studies programs within universities.[6] The movement was triggered by the assassination of Malcolm X.[7] Among the well-known writers who were involved with the movement are Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Maya Angelou, Hoyt W. Fuller, and Rosa Guy.[8][9]

The Black Arts Movements of the 1960s signaled one of the greatest advancements of African American visual art in history, black women artists were underrepresented at the onset of the movement. These individual artist named Elizabeth, Catlett, Faith Ringgold, Camille Billops, Ingle Hardison, Lois Mailou Jones, and Betty Saar were gaining a national level, the majority of working black women artists in New York were not exhibited in either major or black-owned galleries. The spring of 1971 was the year that black women artists as a whole began to finally make a breakthrough.

An artist who goes by the name of Kay Brown developed a philosophy based in African tradition and the cooperative gallery experience to present to artists Dindga McCannon, Faith Ringgold and others as they discussed the possibility of a major exhibition of black women artist in 1971.

See also

References

  1. ^ Sharon F. Patton, African-American Art, Oxford University Press, 1998.
  2. ^ a b Lewis, Samella (2003). African American Art and Artists. University of California Press.
  3. ^ Romare Bearden, Harry Henderson, A History of African-American Artists. From 1792 to the Present. New York: Pantheon Books, 1993.
  4. ^ USA Today Magazine. May2005, Vol. 133 Issue 2720, p48-52. 5p.
  5. ^ "The Great Warpaths".
  6. ^ Kyra E. Hicks (2009), This I Accomplish: Harriet Powers' Bible Quilt and Other Pieces.
  7. ^ Harriet Powers Archived 2007-10-18 at the Wayback Machine, Early Women Masters
  8. ^ The Quilts of Gees Bend.
  9. ^ Raymond Dobard, Jr., Ph.D., and Jacqueline Tobin, Hidden in Plain View, 1999.[where?]
  10. ^ Driskell, p. 121.
  11. ^ Painting Florida Archived November 8, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ The Highwaymen Archived 2007-10-18 at the Wayback Machine By Ken Hall.
  13. ^ Updates & Snapshots 2006 Archived March 11, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ The Florida Highwaymen
  15. ^ Bearden. R., in An Ocean Apart: American Artists Abroad. New York: Studio Museum in Harlem.
  16. ^ Malone, L., in An Ocean Apart: American Artists Abroad. New York: Studio Museum in Harlem.
  17. ^ Williams, J. A., in An Ocean Apart: American Artists Abroad. New York: Studio Museum in Harlem.
  18. ^ Driskell, David C., in An Ocean Apart: American Artists Abroad. New York: Studio Museum in Harlem.
  19. ^ Mercer, Valerie (1996), Explorations in the City of Light. New York: The Studio Museum in Harlem.
  20. ^ I. C. K., (1957), “The Surprise of Painter Tom Sills,” The Village Voice, p. 17.
  21. ^ Brown, Kay (2011). "The Emergence of Black Women Artists: The Founding of 'Where We Ar'". NKA Journal of Contemporary African Art. 29: 118–127.
  22. ^ Kruger, Barbara (2007)"Kara Walker", Time online. Retrieved 26 July 2007.
  23. ^ Kyra E. Hicks (2010), 1.6 Million African American Quilters: Survey, Sites, and a Half-Dozen Art Quilt Blocks.
  24. ^ a b c d e f L., Childs, Adrienne. "Material Girls: Contemporary Black Women Artists". The Journal of Modern Craft. 5 (1). ISSN 1749-6772.

Sources

External links

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