Tag: African American art history

Art History: Ernest Watson

I think it was summer when I first saw a painting by Ernest Watson. My brothers and I were staying with cousins in Texas, traveling from one cousins house to another, staying up all night watching movies and running through thick green grass under the piercing hot sun. Every few minutes someone would run back…

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Richard Powell- Art & Art History

Richard J. Powell is John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art & Art History at Duke University, where he has taught since 1989.  He studied at Morehouse College and Howard University before earning his doctorate in art history at Yale University.  Along with teaching courses in American art, the arts of the African Diaspora, and contemporary visual studies, he has written extensively on topics ranging from primitivism to postmodernism, including such titles as Homecoming: The Art and Life of William H. Johnson (1991), Black Art: A Cultural History (1997 & 2002), and Cutting a Figure: Fashioning Black Portraiture (2008).[1]

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Book: Augusta Savage Renaissance Woman

I initially was attracted to her story because of the fact she didn't let her personal life overshadow her career. As a working woman with children it can be difficult to find that balance. Especially, as a working African American woman in the arts during a very difficult time period. She paved the way for artists of color, women and inspired many sculptors, painters and more. Augusta Savage was an artist, educator and activist, a true Renaissance woman.

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Thornton Dial – Artist

"Art is strange-looking stuff and most people don’t understand art. Most people don’t understand my art, the art of the Negroes, because most people don’t understand me, don’t understand the Negroes at all. If everybody understand one another, wouldn’t nobody make art. Art is something to open your eyes. Art is for understanding." ~Thornton Dial [1]

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South of Pico by Kellie Jones

In South of Pico Kellie Jones explores how the artists in Los Angeles's black communities during the 1960s and 1970s created a vibrant, productive, and engaged activist arts scene in the face of structural racism. Emphasizing the importance of African American migration, as well as L.A.'s housing and employment politics, Jones shows how the work of black Angeleno artists such as Betye Saar, Charles White, Noah Purifoy, and Senga Nengudi spoke to the dislocation of migration, L.A.'s urban renewal, and restrictions on black mobility.

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“Glory” inspires Quiet Pride: The Elizabeth Catlett Project

Elizabeth Catlett's "Glory" inspires music. The sculptures of the late African-American artist and civil rights activist Elizabeth Catlett are the inspiration for a new jazz composition. Rufus Reid, a bass musician who's been playing jazz for half a century, uses Catlett's artwork to explore the intersection between music and the visual arts. In his new project, called "Quiet Pride," Reid tries to convey Catlett's sculptures in sound. [1]

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Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence – Artist

Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence's first formal study of art came at Howard University, where she studied with the painter Lois Maillou Jones and with printmaker James Lesesne Wells. During the Harlem Renaissance, Knight became a daily participant in the workshop of sculptor Augusta Savage, director of the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts and later of the Harlem Community Arts Center. Throughout the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, Knight became an itinerant artist of sorts, accompanying her husband, Jacob Lawerence, as he pursued new opportunities.

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Harriet Powers – Folk Artist

Harriet Powers used traditional techniques in her quilts to record local legends, Bible stories and astronomical events on her quilts. One of the panels on Powers quilts illustrate the “dark day” of May 19, 1780 (which is now known as dense smoke over North America caused by Canadian wildfires) and the November 13, 1833, as the “night of falling stars” that convinced many terrified Americans that Judgment Day had come, but was later identified as the Leonid meteor storm. Two of her quilts are on display at the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC; Bible Quilt of 1886 and Pictorial Quilt of 1898.[2]

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Dr. Selma Burke – Sculptor

Some of Burke’s most notable sculptures include Temptation (1938),  Despair (1951),  Fallen Angel(1958), Mother and Child (1968), and Together (1975).  A nine-foot statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. she completed while in her eighties is on display in Marshall Park in Charlotte, North Carolina.  She received numerous awards and honors which included three honorary doctorate degrees.  In 1979 Burke was recognized by President Jimmy Carter for her contribution to African American art history.[4]

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Augusta Savage – Sculptor

In the 1920s Augusta Savage received commissions to create portrait busts of W.E.B. Du Bois and black nationalist Marcus Garvey; both pieces were hailed for their power and dynamism. On the strength of these works and especially the poignant Gamin (1929)—a portrait bust of a streetwise boy and one of Savage’s few extant pieces—she received a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship that enabled her finally to study in Paris in 1929–31.**

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