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Article

American, 20th – 21st century, male.

Born 19 February 1946, in Washington DC.

Painter, sculptor, draughtsman, engraver, photographer, video artist, glassmaker, decorative designer. Theatre design.

AfriCobra Group.

Akili Ron Anderson attended the Corcoran School of Art and Howard University in Washington DC where he lives and works. He is a member of AfriCobra (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists) founded in ...

Article

Deborah Cullen

(b Plainview, GA, Nov 13, 1930; d Brooklyn, New York, Nov 10, 2006).

African American painter, collagist, printmaker, and art advocate. Benny Andrews grew up under segregation in the rural South, one of 10 children in a sharecropper’s family. After graduating from high school, he served in the US Air Force. Afterwards, through the GI Bill of Rights, he studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he received his BFA. In 1958, he moved to New York. Andrews received a John Hay Whitney Fellowship (1965–6) as well as a CAPS award from the New York State Council on the Arts (1971). From 1968 to 1997, he taught at Queens College, City University of New York and created a prison arts program that became a national model. In 1969, Andrews co-founded the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition (BECC), an organization that protested against the Harlem on my Mind exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Between ...

Article

American, 20th century, male.

Born 13 November 1930, in Plainview (Georgia); died 10 November 2006, in New York (New York).

Painter, collage artist, installation artist, sculptor, photographer, illustrator, draughtsman, watercolourist, print artist. Figures, portraits, interiors with figures, landscapes, animals.

Black Emergency Cultural Coalition, Rhino Horn Group

African-American artist Benny Andrews was the second of ten children born to George and Viola Andrews in the small rural farming town of Plainview, Georgia. He served in the US Air Force during the Korean War. Upon his honorable discharge, Andrews moved to Chicago and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, graduating with a BFA in 1958. He then moved to New York, where, in 1969, with Cliff Joseph and Valerie Maynard, he founded the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition (BECC), the aim of which was to force the major museums to include work by African-American artists in their shows. Andrews helped organize protests of several major museum shows including the Whitney Museum of American Art’s ...

Article

American, 20th century, male.

Born 2 September 1911, in Charlotte (North Carolina); died 12 March 1988, in New York.

Painter (including gouache), watercolourist, lithographer, screen printer, engraver, collage artist, newspaper cartoonist, illustrator, art theorist. Religious subjects, figure compositions, local figures. Humorous cartoons, frontispieces, stage sets...

Article

James Smalls

(b Somerville, NJ, 1955).

African American sculptor, printmaker, and conceptual artist. He grew up in New Jersey and attended the Boston University School of Fine Arts, the School of Visual Arts and the Art Students League of New York City. Cole is best known for assembling and transforming ordinary domestic objects, such as irons, ironing boards, high-heeled shoes, lawn jockeys, hair dryers, bicycle parts and other discarded appliances and hardware into imaginative and powerful configurations and installations embedded with references to the African American experience and inspired by West African religion, mythology and culture. Visual puns and verbal play characterized his works, thereby creating layered meanings. The objects he chose were often discarded mass-produced American products that had themselves acquired an alternate history through their previous handling and use.

In 1989, he became attracted to the motif of the steam iron both for its form and for its perceived embodiment of the experience and history of the unknown persons who had previously used it. He referred to the earliest versions of these irons as ‘Household Gods’ and ‘Domestic Demons’. With them, he engaged with ideas utilizing not only the found object but also the repetitive scorch mark of the iron arranged in either purely decorative patterns or in such ways as to suggest a face or African mask (...

Article

American, 20th century, male.

Born 7 June 1931, in Eatonton (Georgia).

Painter, draughtsman (including ink), collage artist, print artist, sculptor, collector, art historian. Religious subjects, figures, portraits, figure compositions, scenes with figures, landscapes. Designs for stained glass.

David C. Driskell earned a BFA at Howard University in ...

Article

Catherine M. Grant and Margaret Rose Vendryes

(b Cleveland, OH, 1959).

American printmaker, film maker, installation and conceptual artist and writer.

Green, of African descent, has worked primarily with film-based media, and has published criticism and designed installations that reveal her commitment to ongoing feminist and black empowerment movements. She earned her BA from Wesleyan University in 1981 and also spent some time at the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1980, returning in the late 1980s to study in the Whitney Independent Study Program, graduating in 1990. At the age of 24 she began exhibiting her comparative compositions containing found objects, images, and texts that question recorded history.

Green’s work deals with issues of anthropology and travel. By undertaking projects via the methodology of the 19th-century explorer, she exposed the arbitrary and prejudiced nature of classification, as in Bequest (1991; see 1993 exh. cat.), an installation she made at the invitation of the Worcester Museum of Art to commemorate their 50th anniversary. Using the museum as a ready-made stage set, she installed works of art alongside 19th-century texts explaining stereotypes of whiteness and blackness. Green characteristically intervened in the history of her chosen site to produce a fiction that included her own responses as an African American woman to her findings. In ...

Article

American, 20th – 21st century, female.

Born 1947.

Sculptor, lithographer, installation artist.

Minimal Art.

Maren Hassinger is an adjunct professor at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. She works with wire which she treats as she would textile. Her pieces, which she has described as 'kinetic', seem subjected to the elements and to behave in the way of plants, even set inside a gallery. This is her way of referring to an era when nature was not threatened by human activity and to the rural past of African Americans. She is the author of numerous open-air installations such as ...

Article

American, 20th century, male.

Born 1931, in New York.

Painter (mixed media), watercolourist, draughtsman, print artist, sculptor, illustrator. Figure compositions, figures, nudes, landscapes. Murals.

Spiral Group.

Alvin Hollingsworth was born into a family of West Indian origin. He studied at the Art Students League and New York City College, graduating in ...

Article

American, 20th century, male.

Born 1935, in St Louis.

Painter, watercolourist, sculptor (wood/marble), draughtsman, collage artist, print artist (including dry-point). Monuments.

Oliver Lee Jackson studied at Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, and the University of Iowa from where he graduated with a master's degree in fine arts in ...

Article

American, 20th – 21st century, male.

Born 1960, in the Bronx (New York City).

Painter, draughtsman, installation artist, engraver, lithographer.

Glenn Ligon earned art qualifications from the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, and the Wesleyan University, Middletown (Connecticut). He is based in New York. Ligon relies heavily on language, in his exploration of African American racial and cultural identity. He works from quotes found in Afro-American literature, the media and slaves' autobiographies. He may stencil them black on black or cover them in black paint or soot. At the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, in ...

Article

American, 20th century, male.

Active in the Netherlands.

Born 1927, in New York.

Painter (including mixed media/gouache), draughtsman, watercolourist, collage artist, print artist, lithographer. Scenes with figures, landscapes with figures. Posters.

Samuel Middleton grew up in Harlem and travelled widely before settling in the Netherlands. He studied at the Instituto Allende, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. After spending many years in Amsterdam, he settled in Schagen in the far north of the Netherlands. He paints in the abstract expressionist tradition, splattering masses of paint on abstract landscapes based on pure line....

Article

American, 20th century, female.

Born 8 October 1930, in New York.

Painter, engraver, sculptor, mosaicist, performance artist, mixed media. Figure compositions, scenes with figures. Murals, costumes.

Faith Ringgold trained at City University, New York. While still in New York, in 1971 she co-founded, with Kay Brown, ...

Article

American, 20th – 21st century, female.

Born 1956, in Los Angeles.

Draughtswoman, installation artist, sculptor, engraver (including wood). Figures, animals.

Alison Saar studied at Scripps College, Claremont (California), and at the Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles. She is Betye Saar's daughter. She dwells on themes of the African diaspora in installations and sculptures where her figures can assume the dimension of fetishes. She brings together found objects, string, dust, all sorts of materials which, within her constructions or assemblages, take on ritualistic connotations. Her work also reflects ironically the role of women in a patriarchal society....

Article

American, 20th–21st century, female.

Born 1960, in Brooklyn (New York).

Engraver, photographer, mixed media, installation artist.

Conceptual Art, Identity Art.

Lorna Simpson is an African American artist who combines texts and photographs of black women to explore the experience of African American women in contemporary society. The artist also makes sound installations.

Simpson studied at the University of San Diego and then at the New York School of Visual Arts. She began as a photo-journalist and her work has retained a connection between photograph and text. Simpson’s work portrays the black female body, and its frequent encounters with micro-aggressions and projected stereotypes of black female sexuality. In the series Guarded Conditions (1989–1990), which includes a photograph of a black woman dressed in a large nightshirt or cotton dress, the model is shown six times, while a text printed as a caption alternates the words ‘sex attack’ with the words ‘skin attacks’, inferring that the woman has been sexually attacked because of the colour of her skin and that the condition of being a black woman predisposes her to becoming a rape victim....

Article

American, 20th–21st century, female.

Born 26 November 1969, in Stockton (California), United States.

Installation artist, lithographer, screen printer, engraver, collage artist, watercolourist.

Kara Walker is based in Providence, Rhode Island. She graduated from the Atlanta College of Art and earned a master’s degree from the Rhode Island School of Design. She teaches at Columbia University, New York. This African American artist addresses racial and sexual tensions in graphic terms. The trademark silhouettes of her installations, cut out in black paper, are derived from a popular art form of the 18th and 19th centuries, as the slave trade grew; today, they are a stark illustration of the shadow cast on history by slavery and the exploitative relationships it spawned. Her images impose on the eye their symbolic content as they tell their story with the support of well-known plantation types. Walker’s aggressive transformation of the folktale and movie-derived imagery of American slavery into humorous, psychologically provocative but exquisitely quaint pieces ironically parallels a history of sexuality, violence, and social power struggles. She keeps up the pretence in some of her titles framed in period language – for instance, the watercolour series ...