Friday, July 17, 2015

From the Archives: Black Enterprise (December 1980)

In gathering notes for another piece that I am working on, Gallery 62: National Urban League, I surreptitiously stumbled upon the following articles in Black Enterprise (December 1980) and because of their timeliness, decided to share them with BAP readers. The link to this issue of Black Enterprise was provided by Google Books. The following articles, relating to the visual arts, are highlighted: 
  • Publisher's Page, Investing in Our Culture by Earl Graves (page 9). There is a strong focus on the visual arts within this issue. It serves as a celebration of the fine arts as it celebrates the visual artists, highlighting the challenges that these artists face in light of the rewards they offer viewers in general and the collector in particular; and the role of the corporate collector and the impact that they can have, as they are offered an opportunity to combine pleasure with business. Through their art, these artists have the capacity to express the struggle of Blacks for equality. In addition, there is an aesthetic reward in supporting Black artists. The following statement sums up Grave's sentiment, "an investment in art is also an investment in our culture."
  • The Bullish Market for Black Art by Judith Wilson (pages 34-36, 39-40). The subtitle gives a clear indication to the content of this article: Companies and individuals have discovered patronage of the arts can help the bottom line. The article focuses on such companies as Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company, Johnson Publishing Company and Johnson Products Company, Atlanta Life Insurance Company, Brooklyn Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, etc. 
  • Where to See and Buy Black Art (page 41) This is a list of museums, galleries, college and corporate collections of Afro-American artists in the vanguard. Although it is now a bit dated because a number of the galleries have closed. However, knowing that they existed is a rich piece of history for one who continually digs to uncover any solid documentation relating to the history of Black art/artists. I am always looking, sometimes with success and sometimes not so successful, for catalogues, brochures, or any ephemera produced by galleries that were on the forefront of representing or showing the work of Black artists. Two of my biggest challenges, in terms of locating material, have been Brockman Gallery and the Barnett-Aden Collection. However, recently, I have had success with discovering approximately 12 catalogues from Gallery 62 (National Urban League). Also, I just stumbled upon a wonderful little gem from Just Above Midtown. With the list that appears in this issue, I will now expand my search strategy to include a few other galleries that I was formerly not familiar. Although a select gallery may be closed, there may just be some ephemera in the hands of a local secondhand book dealer.
  • New Rituals, New Visions (pages 43-48, 51). This article features a mini-exhibition of works by Afro-American artists in the vanguard, including Clarence Morgan, David Hammons, Jacqui Holmes, Bill Traylor, Curtis Bunyan, Jules Allen, Clifton Webb, Randy Williams, John  Scott, Richard Powell, Ray Grist, Senga Nengudi, Margo Humphrey, and John Dowell. As I read this article, a number of questions came to mind. Where are these artists 35 years after the publication of this issue? What impact have they had on broadening and defining the perspective of American art? How well have these artists and their works been documented in newspapers, journals, exhibition catalogues, standard text, etc? Are their works more included in mainstream museums than artists 35 years ago? How well are these artists compensated for their works and how does that dollar amount compare in value to 1980 selling prices? etc., etc., etc.         

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