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Black Art and Culture in the 20th Century

Book relating to a publication, 1997
Published by: Thames and Hudson World of Art
Year published: 1997
Number of pages: 272
ISBN: 0-500-20295-8

image of Black Art and Culture in the 20th Century

Black Art and Culture in the 20th Century, Richard J. Powell. 176 illustrations, 31 in colour. 166 biographical notes.

From the text on the back cover of the publication: “The African diaspora, a direct result of the transatlantic slave trade and Western colonisation, has generated a wide array of artistic achievements in our century, from blues to reggae, from the paintings of Henry Ossawa Tanner to the video installations of Keith Piper. Placing its emphasis on black cultural themes rather than on black racial identity, this ground-breaking book is an important exploration of the visual representations of black culture throughout the twentieth century. This study is the first to concentrate on the art works themselves and their use of black culture both as subject and as context. Professor Powell discusses the forces that have shaped a black diasporal presence in twentieth-century art, the emergence of the “New Negro“ in the Jazz Age, the use of black folk-imagery in post-Depression art, the ideological conflict between racial pride and cultural assimilation in mid-century works, and the aesthetic and visual variations on the concept of “blackness’ during the late modern and postmodern eras. From musings on “the souls of black folk“ in turn-of-the-century painting, sculpture and photography, to performance, film, video and other media arts in the 1990s, it draws on the works of hundreds of artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Lois Mailou Jones, Wifredo Lam, Jacob Lawrence, Spike Lee, Faith Ringgold and Gerald Sekoto.”

On page 3, the book is inscribed “To Eddie: My “introducer” to Black British Culture! Sincerely, Richard J. Powell London 14 March 1997”

The book is divided into the following sections/chapters:
Introduction: The Dark Center
Chapter One: Art, Culture and “the Souls of Black Folk”
Chapter Two: Enter and Exit the “New Negro”
Chapter Three: The Cult of the People
Chapter Four: Pride, Assimilation and Dreams
Chapter Five: “Black is a Color”
Chapter Six: Culture as Currency
Conclusion: Through a Glass, Diasporally
Biographical Notes
Select Bibliography and Sources
List of Illustrations
Index

The study is overwhelmingly African-American, with a smattering of London-based Black artists thrown in. Black artists of the Caribbean are thinly represented, as are Black artists from Africa itself, though one or two, such as Uzo Egonu, are mentioned. In this regard, the study perhaps aspires to be international, but is primarily a history of African-American art and the treatment of the Black image in American culture. Within Powell’s book, white artists such as Sue Coe are also briefly introduced and illustrated.

In some regards, the book was a companion to Veerle Poupeye’s book Caribbean Art, also published by Thames & Hudson. Caribbean Art was a hugely important, groundbreaking book written by the Belgium-born, Jamaica-based art historian Veerle-Poupeye. The book was the first of its kind, to offer a broad-based introduction to art of the Caribbean, for the general reader, that sought to offer a range of diasporic contexts within which the construct of ‘Caribbean Art’ could be read. To this end, the book included references to artists such as Sonia Boyce, Keith Piper, Frank Bowling, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, artists frequently disassociated from, rather than associated with, ongoing or changing constructions of ‘Caribbean Art’. The book was also of considerable interest to those readers with various degrees of familiarity with art of the Caribbean.

Black Art and Culture in the 20th Century featured a work on its cover by California-based artist, Raymond Saunders.

 

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