Formed on the South Side of Chicago in 1968 at the height of the civil rights, Black power, and Black arts movements, the AFRICOBRA collective created a new artistic visual language rooted in the culture of Chicago's Black neighborhoods. The collective's aesthetics, especially the use of vibrant color, capture the rhythmic dynamism of Black culture and social life. In AFRICOBRA, painter, photographer, and collective cofounder Wadsworth A. Jarrell tells the definitive story of the group's creation, history, and artistic and political principles. From accounts of the painting of the groundbreaking Wall of Respect mural and conversations among group members to documentation of AFRICOBRA's exhibits in Chicago, New York, and Boston, Jarrell outlines how the collective challenged white conceptions of art by developing an artistic philosophy and approach wholly divested of Western practices. Featuring nearly one hundred color images of artworks, exhibition ephemera, and photographs, this book is at once a sourcebook history of AFRICOBRA and the story of visionary artists who rejected the white art establishment in order to create uplifting art for all Black people.
In southeastern Morocco, around the oasis of Tafilalet, the Ait Khabbash people weave brightly colored carpets, embroider indigo head coverings, paint their faces with saffron, and wear ornate jewelry. Their extraordinarily detailed arts are rich in cultural symbolism; they are always breathtakingly beautiful—and they are typically made by women. Like other Amazigh (Berber) groups (but in contrast to the Arab societies of North Africa), the Ait Khabbash have entrusted their artistic responsibilities to women. Cynthia Becker spent years in Morocco living among these women and, through family connections and female fellowship, achieved unprecedented access to the artistic rituals of the Ait Khabbash. The result is more than a stunning examination of the arts themselves, it is also an illumination of women's roles in Islamic North Africa and the many ways in which women negotiate complex social and religious issues.
One of the reasons Amazigh women are artists is that the arts are expressions of ethnic identity, and it follows that the guardians of Amazigh identity ought to be those who literally ensure its continuation from generation to generation, the Amazigh women. Not surprisingly, the arts are visual expressions of womanhood, and fertility symbols are prevalent. Controlling the visual symbols of Amazigh identity has given these women power and prestige. Their clothing, tattoos, and jewelry are public identity statements; such public artistic expressions contrast with the stereotype that women in the Islamic world are secluded and veiled. But their role as public identity symbols can also be restrictive, and history (French colonialism, the subsequent rise of an Arab-dominated government in Morocco, and the recent emergence of a transnational Berber movement) has forced Ait Khabbash women to adapt their arts as their people adapt to the contemporary world. By framing Amazigh arts with historical and cultural context, Cynthia Becker allows the reader to see the full measure of these fascinating artworks.
An essential African American artist of his era, Archibald Motley Jr. created paintings of black Chicago that aligned him with the revisionist aims of the New Negro Renaissance. Yet Motley's approach to constructing a New Negro--a dignified figure both accomplished and worthy of respect--reflected the challenges faced by African American artists working on the project of racial reinvention and uplift.
Phoebe Wolfskill demonstrates how Motley's art embodied the tenuous nature of the Black Renaissance and the wide range of ideas that structured it. Focusing on key works in Motley's oeuvre, Wolfskill reveals the artist's complexity and the variety of influences that informed his work. Motley’s paintings suggest that the racist, problematic image of the Old Negro was not a relic of the past but an influence that pervaded the Black Renaissance. Exploring Motley in relation to works by notable black and non-black contemporaries, Wolfskill reinterprets Motley's oeuvre as part of a broad effort to define American cultural identity through race, class, gender, religion, and regional affiliation.
The artists Adrian Piper, Eleanor Antin, Anna Deavere Smith, and Nikki S. Lee have all crossed racial, ethnic, gender, and class boundaries in works that they have conceived and performed. Cherise Smith analyzes their complex engagements with issues of identity through close readings of a significant performance, or series of performances, by each artist. She examines Piper’s public embodiment of the Mythic Being, a working-class black man, during the early 1970s; Antin’s full-time existence as the fictitious black ballerina Eleanora Antinova for several weeks in 1981; and Smith’s shifting among more than twenty characters of different ages and racial, ethnic, gender, and class backgrounds in Twilight: Los Angeles. She also considers Lee’s performances of membership in cultural groups—including swing dancers, hip-hop devotees, skateboarders, drag queens, and yuppies—in her Projects series (1997–2001). The author historicizes the politics of identity by exploring each performance in relation to the discourses prevalent in the United States at the time of its development. She is attentive to how the artists manipulated clothing, mannerisms, voice, and other signs to negotiate their assumed identities. Cherise Smith argues that by drawing on conventions such as passing, blackface, minstrelsy, cross-dressing, and drag, they highlighted the constructedness and fluidity of identity and identifications. Enacting Others provides a provocative account of how race informs contemporary art and feminist performance practices.
We use the term “modernism” almost exclusively to characterize the work of European and American writers and artists who struggled to portray a new kind of fractured urban life typified by mechanization and speed. Between the 1880s and 1930s, Latin American artists were similarly engaged--but with a difference. While other modernists drew from “primitive” cultures for an alternative sense of creativity, Latin American modernists were taking a cue from local sources, primarily indigenous and black populations in their own countries. Although these artists remained outsiders to modernism elsewhere as a result of their race, nation, and identity, their racial heritage served as a positive tool in negotiating their relationship to the dichotomy between tradition and modernity.
In Mestizo Modernism Tace Hedrick focuses on four key artists who represent Latin American modernism—Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo, Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, and Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Hedrick interrogates what being “modern” and “American” meant for them and illuminates the cultural contexts within which they worked, as well as the formal methods they shared, including the connection they drew between ancient cultures and modern technologies. In so doing, she defines “modernism” more as a time frame at the turn of the twentieth century, marked broadly across the arts and national boundaries, than as a strict aesthetic or formal category. In fact, this look at Latin American artists will force the reconceptualization of what modernism has meant in academic study and what it might mean for future research.
In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, this collection—which gathers scholars in the fields of race, ethnicity, and humor—seems especially urgent. Inspired by Denmark’s Muhammad cartoons controversy, the contributors inquire into the role that racial and ethnic stereotypes play in visual humor and the thin line that separates broad characterization as a source of humor from its power to shock or exploit. The authors investigate the ways in which humor is used to demean or give identity to racial, national, or ethnic groups and explore how humor works differently in different media, such as cartoons, photographs, film, video, television, and physical performance. This is a timely and necessary study that will appeal to scholars across disciplines.
In 1930, Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History commissioned sculptor Malvina Hoffman to produce three-dimensional models of racial types for an anthropology display called The Races of Mankind. Marianne Kinkel’s cultural biography of the long-running exhibition measures how Hoffman’s ninety-one bronze and stone sculptures impacted perceptions of race in twentieth-century visual culture. Kinkel looks at how Hoffman's collaborations with curators and anthropologists transformed the commission from a traditional physical anthropology display into a fine art exhibit. She also tracks appearances of statuettes of the works in New York and Paris exhibitions and looks at how publishers used images of the sculptures to illustrate atlases, maps, and encyclopedias. The volume concludes with the dismantling of the exhibit in 1969 and the Field Museum’s redeployment of some of the sculptures in new educational settings.
A fascinating cultural history, Races of Mankind examines how we continually re-negotiate the veracity of race through collaborative processes involved in the production, display, and circulation of visual representations.
Over the years, Kobena Mercer has critically illuminated the visual innovations of African American and black British artists. In Travel & See he presents a diasporic model of criticism that gives close attention to aesthetic strategies while tracing the shifting political and cultural contexts in which black visual art circulates. In eighteen essays, which cover the period from 1992 to 2012 and discuss such leading artists as Isaac Julien, Renée Green, Kerry James Marshall, and Yinka Shonibare, Mercer provides nothing less than a counternarrative of global contemporary art that reveals how the “dialogical principle” of cross-cultural interaction not only has transformed commonplace perceptions of blackness today but challenges us to rethink the entangled history of modernism as well.
Echoing and expanding the aims of the first volume, Visualities: Perspectives on Contemporary American Indian Film and Art, this second volume contains illuminating global Indigenous visualities concerning First Nations, Aboriginal Australian, Maori, and Sami peoples. This insightful collection of essays explores how identity is created and communicated through Indigenous film-, video-, and art-making; what role these practices play in contemporary cultural revitalization; and how indigenous creators revisit media pasts and resignify dominant discourses through their work. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, Visualities Two draws on American Indian studies, film studies, art history, cultural studies, visual culture studies, women’s studies, and postcolonial studies. Among the artists and media makers examined are Tasha Hubbard, Rachel Perkins, and Ehren “Bear Witness” Thomas, as well as contemporary Inuit artists and Indigenous agents of cultural production working to reimagine digital and social platforms. Films analyzed include The Exiles, Winter in the Blood, The Spirit of Annie Mae, Radiance, One Night the Moon, Bran Nue Dae, Ngati, Shimásání, and Sami Blood.