The African diaspora—a direct result of the transatlantic slave trade and Western colonialism—generated a wide array of artistic achievements in the past century, from blues to reggae, from the paintings of Henry Ossawa Tanner to the video installations of Keith Piper. Richard Powell’s study concentrates on the works of art themselves and on how these works, created during a time of major social upheaval and transformation, use black culture as both subject and context.
From musings on the “the souls of black folk” in early twentieth-century painting, sculpture, and photography to questions of racial and cultural identities in performance, media, and computer-assisted arts in the 1990s, the book 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, Archibald Motley, Jr., Faith Ringgold, and Gerard Sekoto.
This revised edition includes expanded coverage of video art and a new chapter that discusses work by a number of artists who have newly risen to prominence, such as Chris Ofili, Kara Walker, and Renée Cox. Biographies of more than 170 key artists provide a unique art-historical reference.
Placing its emphasis on black cultural themes rather than on black racial identity, this groundbreaking book is an important exploration of the visual representations of black culture throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.
Richard J. Powell
Richard Powell is John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art and Art History at Duke University.