This course surveys art made by African American artists in the 20th century. We will study painting, photography, and sculpture made in representational and abstract styles. We will explore whether African American art is uniquely American and consider whether some “Africanisms” are retained. We will examine the relationship between African American art and jazz during the Harlem Renaissance (1920s-1930s), African American art and protest during the Civil Rights era (1950s-1960s), and African American art and the politics of identity (1980s-1990s). The course text will be Sharon Patton’s African-American Art; other texts will be available on reserve and in the course reader.
This course historicizes the politics of identity in American art by tracking its trajectory over the thirty-year period from 1970 to 2000. Students will compare discourses that theorize identities as “real,” “authentic,” fixed, stable, and unchanging, to those that understand identities to be inauthentic, fluid, transitory, and ever-changing constructions. Texts that fall under the rubrics of Feminism, Black Cultural Studies, Chicana/o and Mexican American Cultural Studies, Multiculturalism, and Queer Studies among others will be read to discern similarities and divergences. Key events, ranging from the NEA controversy (1989) to "The Decade Show" (1991), the Los Angeles uprisings (1992) to the Whitney Biennial Exhibition of 1993, will also be studied. Artists to be covered may include Robert Mapplethorpe, Adrian Piper, Eleanor Antin, Nikki S. Lee, Glenn Ligon, Kara Walker, Cindy Sherman, Chris Burden, Vito Acconci, James Luna, Guillermo Gomez-Peña, and Coco Fusco among others.
Black Art/Brown Art will focus on visual art made by contemporary African American, Mexican American and Latino artists. Students will consider artists' relationships to issues of difference, including but not limited to gender, 'identity politics' and 'post-identity.' In addition, students will think about whether the artists engage in transnational dialogues with the cultures of their ancestors. Attention will be paid to exhibitions, such as "Phantom Sightings" and "Freestyle," that seek to (re)define the parameters of contemporary 'ethnic' art. We will study Rashid Johnson, Juan Capistran, Michael Ray Charles, Kara Walker, Pepon Osorio, Wanda Raimundi Ortiz, and Enrique Chagoya among other artists.