In 1972 the artist Adrian Piper began periodically dressing as a persona called the Mythic Being, striding the streets of New York in a mustache, Afro wig, and mirrored sunglasses with a cigar in the corner of her mouth. Her Mythic Being performances critically engaged with popular representations of race, gender, sexuality, and class; they challenged viewers to accept personal responsibility for xenophobia and discrimination and the conditions that allowed them to persist. Piper’s work confronts viewers and forces them to reconsider assumptions about the social construction of identity. Adrian Piper: Race, Gender, and Embodiment is an in-depth analysis of this pioneering artist’s work, illustrated with more than ninety images, including twenty-one in color.
Over the course of a decade, John P. Bowles and Piper conversed about her art and its meaning, reception, and relation to her scholarship on Kant’s philosophy. Drawing on those conversations, Bowles locates Piper’s work at the nexus of Conceptual and feminist art of the late 1960s and 1970s. Piper was the only African American woman associated with the Conceptual artists of the 1960s and one of only a few African Americans to participate in exhibitions of the nascent feminist art movement in the early 1970s. Bowles contends that Piper’s work is ultimately about our responsibility for the world in which we live.
In American Pietàs, Ruby C. Tapia reveals how visual representations of racialized motherhood shape and reflect national citizenship. By means of a sustained engagement with Roland Barthes’s suturing of race, death, and the maternal in Camera Lucida, Tapia contends that the contradictory essence of the photograph is both as a signifier of death and a guarantor of resurrection.
Tapia explores the implications of this argument for racialized productions of death and the maternal in the context of specific cultural moments: the commemoration of Princess Diana in U.S. magazines; the intertext of Toni Morrison’s and Hollywood’s Beloved; the social and cultural death in teen pregnancy, imaged and regulated in California’s Partnership for Responsible Parenting campaigns; and popular constructions of the “Widows of 9/11” in print and televisual journalism.
Taken together, these various visual media texts function in American Pietàs as cultural artifacts and as visual nodes in a larger network of racialized productions of maternal bodies in contexts of national death and remembering. To engage this network is to ask how and toward what end the racial project of the nation imbues some maternal bodies with resurrecting power and leaves others for dead. In the spaces between these different maternities, says Tapia, U.S. citizen-subjects are born—and reborn.
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.
Innovative and lavishly illustrated, Painting the Gospel offers an indispensable contribution to conversations about African American art, theology, politics, and identity in Chicago. Kymberly N. Pinder escorts readers on an eye-opening odyssey to the murals, stained glass, and sculptures dotting the city's African American churches and neighborhoods. Moving from Chicago's oldest black Christ figure to contemporary religious street art, Pinder explores ideas like blackness in public, art for black communities, and the relationship of Afrocentric art to Black Liberation Theology. She also focuses attention on art excluded from scholarship due to racial or religious particularity. Throughout, she reflects on the myriad ways private black identities assert public and political goals through imagery.
Painting the Gospel includes maps and tour itineraries that allow readers to make conceptual, historical, and geographical connections among the works.
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.