Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Black Art Project (BAP) Booklist 7

This is the seventh in a continuing series, highlighting either recently published books or those that are forthcoming, that have an African American art focus. When building a personal library that has some focus on African American visual art, it is advisable to make your book purchases shortly after the book or catalogue has been published. Making an early purchase more readily assures you that the titles you are interested in have not gone out of print. When a title does go out of print, the secondary market becomes a viable option; however, you must then weigh cost and condition differences among the few dealers that may have a copy for sale. I can not over emphasize that fine art books are published in smaller print runs than books in other subject disciplines.

The following post is simply a few new titles that have been released since the last Booklist, consisting of a compilation of reviews from various publishers' notes and other source materials: 

1. Art for Equality (Jenny Woodley, author; published by University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky).

"The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the nation's oldest civil rights organization, having dedicated itself to the fight for racial equality since 1909. While the group helped achieve substantial victories in the courtroom, the struggle for civil rights extended beyond gaining political support. It also required changing social attitudes. The NAACP thus worked to alter existing prejudices through the production of art that countered racist depictions of African Americans, focusing its efforts not only on changing the attitudes of the white middle class but also on encouraging racial pride and a sense of identity in the Black community. Art for Equality explores an important and little-studied side of the NAACP's activism in the cultural realm. In openly supporting African American artists, writers, and musicians in their creative endeavors, the organization aimed to change the way the public viewed the Black community. By overcoming stereotypes and the belief of the majority that African Americans were physically, intellectually, and morally inferior to whites, the NAACP believed it could begin to defeat racism. Illuminating important protests, from the fight against the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation to the production of anti-lynching art during the Harlem Renaissance, this insightful volume examines the successes and failures of the NAACP's cultural campaign from 1910 to the 1960s. Exploring the roles of gender and class in shaping the association's patronage of the arts, Art for Equality offers an in-depth analysis of the social and cultural climate during a time of radical change in America"

2. Common Wealth: Art by African Americans in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Lowery Stokes Sims, author with contributions by Dennis Carr, Janet L. Comey, Elliot Bostwick Davis, Aiden Faust, Nonie Gadsden, Edmund Barry Gaither, Karen Haas, Erica E. Hirshler, Kelly Hays L'Ecuyer, Taylor L. Poulin, and Karen Quinn). 

"The story of African Americans in the visual arts has closely paralleled their social, political, and economic aspirations over the last four hundred years. From enslaved craftpersons to contemporary painters, printmakers, and sculptors, they have created a wealth of artistic expression that addresses common experiences, such as exclusion from dominant cultural institutions, and confronts questions of identity and community. This generously illustrated volume gathers works by leading figures from the nineteenth century to the present—Henry Ossawa Tanner, Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Lois Mailou Jones, Gordon Parks, Wifredo Lam, Kara Walker, Glenn Ligon, Kerry James Marshall—alongside many others who deserve to be better known, including artists from the African diaspora in South America and the Caribbean.  Arranged thematically and accompanied by authoritative texts that provide historical and interpretive context, this book invites readers to share in a rich outpouring of art that meets shared challenges with individual creative responses."

Lecture: Join the writers for the launch of this new Museum of Fine Arts, Boston publication on January 14, 2015, 10:30 am – 12:30 pm @ Harry and Mildred Remis Auditorium (Auditorium 161). Tickets required 

3. Kehinde Wiley: The World Stage Jamaica (Ekow Eshun, essay; Kehinde Wiley. Published by Stephen Friedman Gallery, London).

"The painting of New York-based Kehinde Wiley fuses portraiture and pattern, situating modern subjects in traditional heroic poses against richly patterned backgrounds. Despite the multitude of layers, the abundance of allusions both traditional and contemporary, the results are conceptually clear and impressive. In the works reproduced in Kehinde Wiley: The World Stage Jamaica, the artist paints young, urban Jamaican men and women, in poses appropriated from colonial-era British portraiture. They are placed against and intertwined with backgrounds from British textile designer William Morris. Wiley thus restages history: the race and gender of the colonial hero have been transformed. The dignified, strong pose refers not only to the conventions of the genre, but also to the symbolism of Jamaican culture and its particular ideals of style and beauty. Within a single frame, Wiley combines a traditional mode of portraiture, the ongoing complexities of colonialism and a proud, unique, modern culture--a narrative of contemporary Jamaica. Alongside full-color illustrations and installation images from Wiley's exhibition at the Stephen Friedman Gallery, an extensive essay from leading British-Ghanaian cultural commentator Ekow Eshun explicates the symbolism at play in Wiley's work." This title is a continuation of the World's Stage series and consists of 59 pages with chiefly color illustrations.

4. Kerry James Marshall: Painting and Other Stuff (Okwui Enwezor, Navc Haq, Dieter Roelstraete, Sofie Vermeiren (authors/contributors); Kerry James Marshall. Published by Ludion, Antwerp, Belgium).

"Kerry James Marshall is widely admired for his painterly and sculptural explorations of Afro-American identity and history, and his attendant critiques of art history and the art economy. Among his well-known works are Rhythm Mastr, a comic book that transposes African mythology to a contemporary city; the Garden Project, which draws on the idyllic-sounding names given to housing projects; the Lost Boys series, which portrays young, disenfranchised black men; and his gigantic stamps of Black Power slogans. 'I've always wanted to be a history painter on the grand scale of Giotto and GĂ©ricault,' he once said, and he has created many mural-sized canvases interweaving heroic and everyday aspects of recent Afro-American history. This monograph offers the largest retrospective of his works in all media, from painting and sculpture to collage, photography and installation. 

Seen through the filter of Afro-American identity and history, Marshall's work critiques the assumptions of the art system and art history. This publication of old and much new work also includes a selection from the artist's sculptures, such as the series of gigantic stamps with Black Power slogans, as well as collages, photographs and installations. It accompanies a major traveling exhibition in Europe." Kerry James Marshall: Painting and Other Stuff includes a 190 pages and color illustrations.

5. LaToya Ruby Frazier: The Notion of Family (Laura Wexler and Dennis Dickerson (authors), Dawoud Bey (contributor), photographs by LaToya Ruby Frazier; published by Aperture)

The Notion of Family includes 156 pages, 100 duotone images and 32 four-color video stills. "In this, her first book, LaToya Ruby Frazier offers an incisive exploration of the legacy of racism and economic decline in America’s small towns, as embodied by her hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania. The work also considers the impact of that decline on the community and on her family, creating a statement both personal and truly political—an intervention in the histories and narratives of the region. Frazier has compellingly set her story of three generations—her Grandma Ruby, her mother, and herself—against larger questions of civic belonging and responsibility. The work documents her own struggles and interactions with family and the expectations of community, and includes the documentation of the demise of Braddock’s only hospital, reinforcing the idea that the history of a place is frequently written on the body as well as the landscape. With The Notion of Family, Frazier knowingly acknowledges and expands upon the traditions of classic black-and-white documentary photography, enlisting the participation of her family—and her mother in particular. As Frazier says, her mother is 'coauthor, artist, photographer, and subject. Our relationship primarily exists through a process of making images together. I see beauty in all her imperfections and abuse.' In the creation of these collaborative works, Frazier reinforces the idea of art and image-making as a transformative act, a means of resetting traditional power dynamics and narratives, both those of her family and those of the community at large."

6. Mark Bradford through Darkest America by Truck and Tank (Christopher Bedford, Susan May, Honey Luard, authors/contributors); Published by White Cube Gallery, London.

"Mark Bradford uses materials found in the urban environment such as billboard sheets, posters and newspapers to create expansive, multi-layered paintings comprised entirely of paper. Focused on Bradford's recent body of work inspired by the interstate road network, this new monograph takes its title from a chapter in the memoirs of President Dwight D. Eisenhower about his experience as a member of the Transcontinental Motor Convoy of 1919, which informed his support for a nationwide highway system in the US in the 1950s. Topographical points of reference shift in and out of focus in Bradford's abstract compositions, characterized by ruptures, fractures and incisions that echo the social disruption that followed when interstate highways ripped through communities like Bradford's own in south central Los Angeles. Designed in collaboration with the artist, this volume includes an interview with Susan May and a new essay by Christopher Bedford."

7. Represent: 200 Years of African American Art in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, author; Richard J. Powell, introduction); Published by Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut.


"This publication highlights nearly 140 plus objects in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art that were created by American artists of African descent.  Introduced with an essay by the distinguished scholar Richard J. Powell, the volume includes paintings, sculpture, works on paper, decorative arts, costume and textiles, and photography by some 100 artists, from classically trained painters such as Henry Ossawa Tanner to self-taught artists such as Bill Traylor. Informative, thematic essays by the consulting curator, Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, are followed by individual object entries as well as texts spotlighting areas of collecting strength, many of them written by members of the museum’s curatorial staff.

The first major publication to focus on the museum’s diverse collection of works by African American artists, this volume also offers a fresh scholarly perspective on African American art from the early 19th century to the present."

8. The Visual Blues (edited by Natalie A. Mault ; essays by R.A. Lawson, John Lowe, Natalie A. Mault, Margaret Rose Vendryes ; with artist biographies by Lauren Barnett and Natalie A. Mault. Published by University of Washington Press, Seattle). 

The Visual Blues, a traveling exhibition, explores the enormous impact that blues and jazz music emanating from the Deep South and moving north had on artists associated with the Harlem Renaissance. The Visual Blues shows how the artists and musicians of the Harlem Renaissance blurred artistic boundaries, drawing inspiration from each other and contributing to each other's art forms. The art scene in Harlem from 1919 to approximately 1940 encouraged a melding of art, music, literature, and poetry, providing a creative haven and outlet for transcending hardships and shattering racial stereotypes. The exhibition features a wide range of artists, some of whom already have established reputations and art markets, and others who are under-recognized and are rarely seen publicly. The exhibition comprises sixty-four paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and sculptures by some of the most recognized and celebrated African-American artists of the Harlem Renaissance."  This catalogue accompanies the exhibition. 

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