African-American Art
Mounting Frustration: The Art Museum in the Age of Black Power
Mounting Frustration
The Art Museum in the Age of Black Power
Paperback      ISBN: 0822371456

Prior to 1967 fewer than a dozen museum exhibitions had featured the work of African American artists. And by the time the civil rights movement reached the American art museum, it had already crested: the first public demonstrations to integrate museums occurred in late 1968, twenty years after the desegregation of the military and fourteen years after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision. In Mounting Frustration Susan E. Cahan investigates the strategies African American artists and museum professionals employed as they wrangled over access to and the direction of New York City's elite museums. Drawing on numerous interviews with artists and analyses of internal museum documents, Cahan gives a detailed and at times surprising picture of the institutional and social forces that both drove and inhibited racial justice in New York's museums.

Cahan focuses on high-profile and wildly contested exhibitions that attempted to integrate African American culture and art into museums, each of which ignited debate, dissension, and protest. The Metropolitan Museum's 1969 exhibition Harlem on My Mind was supposed to represent the neighborhood, but it failed to include the work of the black artists living and working there. While the Whitney's 1971 exhibition Contemporary Black Artists in America featured black artists, it was heavily criticized for being haphazard and not representative. The Whitney show revealed the consequences of museums' failure to hire African American curators, or even white curators who possessed knowledge of black art. Cahan also recounts the long history of the Museum of Modern Art's institutional ambivalence toward contemporary artists of color, which reached its zenith in its 1984 exhibition "Primitivism" in Twentieth Century Art. Representing modern art as a white European and American creation that was influenced by the "primitive" art of people of color, the show only served to further devalue and cordon off African American art.

In addressing the racial politics of New York's art world, Cahan shows how aesthetic ideas reflected the underlying structural racism and inequalities that African American artists faced. These inequalities are still felt in America's museums, as many fundamental racial hierarchies remain intact: art by people of color is still often shown in marginal spaces; one-person exhibitions are the preferred method of showing the work of minority artists, as they provide curators a way to avoid engaging with the problems of complicated, interlocking histories; and whiteness is still often viewed as the norm. The ongoing process of integrating museums, Cahan demonstrates, is far broader than overcoming past exclusions.
Mounting Frustration: The Art Museum in the Age of Black Power
Mounting Frustration
The Art Museum in the Age of Black Power
Hardcover      ISBN: 0822358972

Prior to 1967 fewer than a dozen museum exhibitions had featured the work of African American artists. And by the time the civil rights movement reached the American art museum, it had already crested: the first public demonstrations to integrate museums occurred in late 1968, twenty years after the desegregation of the military and fourteen years after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision. In Mounting Frustration Susan E. Cahan investigates the strategies African American artists and museum professionals employed as they wrangled over access to and the direction of New York City's elite museums. Drawing on numerous interviews with artists and analyses of internal museum documents, Cahan gives a detailed and at times surprising picture of the institutional and social forces that both drove and inhibited racial justice in New York's museums.

Cahan focuses on high-profile and wildly contested exhibitions that attempted to integrate African American culture and art into museums, each of which ignited debate, dissension, and protest. The Metropolitan Museum's 1969 exhibition Harlem on My Mind was supposed to represent the neighborhood, but it failed to include the work of the black artists living and working there. While the Whitney's 1971 exhibition Contemporary Black Artists in America featured black artists, it was heavily criticized for being haphazard and not representative. The Whitney show revealed the consequences of museums' failure to hire African American curators, or even white curators who possessed knowledge of black art. Cahan also recounts the long history of the Museum of Modern Art's institutional ambivalence toward contemporary artists of color, which reached its zenith in its 1984 exhibition "Primitivism" in Twentieth Century Art. Representing modern art as a white European and American creation that was influenced by the "primitive" art of people of color, the show only served to further devalue and cordon off African American art.

In addressing the racial politics of New York's art world, Cahan shows how aesthetic ideas reflected the underlying structural racism and inequalities that African American artists faced. These inequalities are still felt in America's museums, as many fundamental racial hierarchies remain intact: art by people of color is still often shown in marginal spaces; one-person exhibitions are the preferred method of showing the work of minority artists, as they provide curators a way to avoid engaging with the problems of complicated, interlocking histories; and whiteness is still often viewed as the norm. The ongoing process of integrating museums, Cahan demonstrates, is far broader than overcoming past exclusions.
Painting a Hidden Life: The Art of Bill Traylor
Painting a Hidden Life
The Art of Bill Traylor
Hardcover      ISBN: 0807134015

Born into slavery on an Alabama plantation in 1853, Bill Traylor worked as a sharecropper for most of his life. But in 1928 he moved to Montgomery and changed his life, becoming a self-taught lyric painter of extraordinary ability and power. From 1936 to 1946, he sat on a street corner--old, ill, and homeless--and created well over 1,200 paintings. Collected and later promoted by Charles Shannon, a young Montgomery artist, his work received star placement in the Corcoran Gallery's 1982 exhibition "Black Folk Art in America." From then on, the spare and powerful "radical modernity" of Traylor's work helped place him among the rising stars of twentieth-century American artists. Most critics and art historians who analyze Traylor's paintings emphasize his extraordinary form and evaluate the content as either simple or enigmatic narratives of black life. In Painting a Hidden Life, historian Mechal Sobel's trenchant analysis reveals a previously unrecognized central core of meaning in Traylor's near-hidden symbolism--a call for retribution in response to acts of lynching and other violence toward blacks.

Drawing on historical records and oral histories, Sobel carefully explores the relationship between Traylor's life and his paintings and arrives at new interpretations of his art. From an interview with Traylor's great-granddaughter, Sobel learned that Traylor believed the Birmingham policemen who killed his son in 1929 in fact lynched him--a story that neither Traylor nor his family had previously disclosed. The trauma of this event, Sobel explains, propelled Traylor to find a way to voice his rage and spurred the creation of his powerful, mysterious visual language. Traylor's encoded paintings tell a vibrant, multilayered story of conjure power, sexual rivalry, and violence.

Revealing an extraordinarily diverse visual universe, the symbols in Traylor's paintings reflect the worlds he lived in between 1853 and 1949: the plantation conjure milieu into which he was born, the blues culture in which he matured, the world of Jim Crow he learned to secretly violate, and the Catholic values he adopted in his final years. From his African heritage, Traylor drew symbols not readily understood by whites. He mixed traditional African images with conjure signs, with symbols of black Baptists and Freemasons, and with images central to the hidden black protest movement--the cross and the lynching tree.

In this groundbreaking examination of an extraordinary artist, Sobel uncovers the internalized pain of several generations and traces the paths African Americans blazed long before the march down the Selma-Montgomery highway.
Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis
Procession
The Art of Norman Lewis
Hardcover      ISBN: 0520288009

This beautifully illustrated catalogue accompanies the first major museum retrospective of the painter Norman Lewis (1909-1979). Lewis was the sole African American artist of his generation who became committed to issues of abstraction at the start of his career and continued to explore them over its entire trajectory. His art derived inspiration from music (jazz and classical) and nature (seasonal change, plant forms, the sea). Also central to his work were the dramatic confrontations of the civil rights movement, in which he was an active participant among the New York art scene. Bridging the Harlem Renaissance, Abstract Expressionism, and beyond, Lewis is a crucial figure in American abstraction whose reinsertion into the discourse further opens the field for recognition of the contributions of artists of color. Bringing much-needed attention to Lewis's output and significance in the history of American art, Procession is a milestone in Lewis scholarship and a vital resource for future study of the artist and abstraction in his period.

Published in association with Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia.

Exhibition dates:
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia: November 13, 2015-April 3, 2016
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth: June 4-August 21, 2016
Chicago Cultural Center: September 17, 2016-January 8, 2017
Rashaad Newsome: Five
Rashaad Newsome
Five
Paperback      ISBN: 094232482x

This publication accompanies the presentation of Rashaad Newsome's Five, a multimedia performance presented at The Drawing Center in New York, that highlights the art of voguing--which is characterized by angular, linear and rigid body movements--as it relates to drawing. New York-based vogue dancers and musicians, including renowned opera singer Stefanos Koroneos and distinguished vogue commentator Kevin Jz Prodigy perform and are conducted by Newsome. This project encapsulates many of the artist's core objectives: the formation, evolution and ownership of cultural signifiers; the essence of historic art structures using modern urban symbols and cultural references; and the use of technology to elicit artistic expression. The book features performance images and unique line drawings produced from that performance using motion-tracking software, as well as an essay by art scholar Evan Danza.

Rethinking Social Realism: African American Art and Literature, 1930-1953
Rethinking Social Realism
African American Art and Literature, 1930-1953
Paperback      ISBN: 0820325791

The social realist movement, with its focus on proletarian themes and its strong ties to New Deal programs and leftist politics, has long been considered a depression-era phenomenon that ended with the start of World War II. This study explores how and why African American writers and visual artists sustained an engagement with the themes and aesthetics of social realism into the early cold war-era--far longer than a majority of their white counterparts.

Stacy I. Morgan recalls the social realist atmosphere in which certain African American artists and writers were immersed and shows how black social realism served alternately to question the existing order, instill race pride, and build interracial, working-class coalitions. Morgan discusses, among others, such figures as Charles White, John Wilson, Frank Marshall Davis, Willard Motley, Langston Hughes, Sterling Brown, Elizabeth Catlett, and Hale Woodruff.
Rodney McMillian
Rodney McMillian
Hardcover      ISBN: 0942949439

For more than a decade, Los Angeles-based artist Rodney McMillian (born 1969) has worked in sculpture, painting, video and performance to explore the intersections of race, class, gender and socioeconomic policy.

Copublished by the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania and The Studio Museum in Harlem on the occasion of Rodney McMillian: The Black Show and Rodney McMillian: Views of Main Street, this volume offers an in-depth examination of McMillian's varied practice and his meditations on social systems, art history, science fiction and public policy.

In addition to contributions by Elms and Keith, McMillian's radical use of postconsumer objects, video and painting is addressed in essays by leading figures including Charles Gaines, Rita Gonzalez, Dave McKenzie and Steven Nelson.
Rodney McMillian: History Is Present Tense
Rodney McMillian
History Is Present Tense
Hardcover      ISBN: 1942185391

Blending the personal with the political, Los Angeles-based artist Rodney McMillian (born 1969) has worked in a range of mediums and materials, including sculpture, painting, video, performance and immersive environments, to explore themes of class, gender, race, social history and culture. His work frequently incorporates "post-consumer" and found objects as well as techniques of interactivity and performativity.

This volume surveys McMillian's performance-based work to date and documents the artist's new site-specific project for The Contemporary Austin. McMillian, inaugural recipient of the Suzanne Deal Booth Art Prize, has been invited to work in The Contemporary Austin's downtown site, the Jones Center on Congress Avenue, taking over the entire space physically and psychologically inverting viewer assumptions with entire floors transformed into immersive spaces of sound, video and color.

Shine: The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice
Shine
The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice
Hardcover      ISBN: 0822357941

In Jamaican dancehalls competition for the video camera's light is stiff, so much so that dancers sometimes bleach their skin to enhance their visibility. In the Bahamas, tuxedoed students roll into prom in tricked-out sedans, staging grand red-carpet entrances that are designed to ensure they are seen being photographed. Throughout the United States and Jamaica friends pose in front of hand-painted backgrounds of Tupac, flashy cars, or brand-name products popularized in hip-hop culture in countless makeshift roadside photography studios. And visual artists such as Kehinde Wiley remix the aesthetic of Western artists with hip-hop culture in their portraiture. In Shine, Krista Thompson examines these and other photographic practices in the Caribbean and United States, arguing that performing for the camera is more important than the final image itself. For the members of these African diasporic communities, seeking out the camera's light-whether from a cell phone, Polaroid, or video camera-provides a means with which to represent themselves in the public sphere. The resulting images, Thompson argues, become their own forms of memory, modernity, value, and social status that allow for cultural formation within and between African diasporic communities.

Shine: The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice
Shine
The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice
Paperback      ISBN: 0822358077

In Jamaican dancehalls competition for the video camera's light is stiff, so much so that dancers sometimes bleach their skin to enhance their visibility. In the Bahamas, tuxedoed students roll into prom in tricked-out sedans, staging grand red-carpet entrances that are designed to ensure they are seen being photographed. Throughout the United States and Jamaica friends pose in front of hand-painted backgrounds of Tupac, flashy cars, or brand-name products popularized in hip-hop culture in countless makeshift roadside photography studios. And visual artists such as Kehinde Wiley remix the aesthetic of Western artists with hip-hop culture in their portraiture. In Shine, Krista Thompson examines these and other photographic practices in the Caribbean and United States, arguing that performing for the camera is more important than the final image itself. For the members of these African diasporic communities, seeking out the camera's light-whether from a cell phone, Polaroid, or video camera-provides a means with which to represent themselves in the public sphere. The resulting images, Thompson argues, become their own forms of memory, modernity, value, and social status that allow for cultural formation within and between African diasporic communities.