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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

American, 20th century, male.

Born 13 November 1930, in Madison (Georgia).

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

African-American artist Benny Andrews served in the USA Air Force during the Korean War. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, graduating with a BFA in ...

Article

Naomi Beckwith

(b Fulton, MO, Feb 4, 1959).

American sculptor and multimedia artist working in fibre, installation, video, and performance. The youngest of seven sons born into a central Missouri family, Cave demonstrated an early acumen with hand-made objects and throughout his career has created works out of texturally rich materials imbued with cultural meaning. Cave received his BFA (1982) from the Kansas City Art Institute, developing an interest in textiles and, after some graduate-level work at North Texas State University, received his MFA (1989) from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, renowned for their textile, fibre art, and design programmes. While working toward his art degrees, Cave simultaneously studied with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, a company known for introducing African American folk traditions into the modern dance vocabulary. Cave moved to Chicago where he became chair of the Department of Fashion Design at the School of the Art Institute in 1980.

Working across the disciplines of sculpture, textile, dance, and cultural performance, Cave’s oeuvre is based on the human figure; he has produced wearable art as sculptures, arrangements of human and animal figurines as installations, and performance works. Cave’s signature works, the multi-sensory ‘...

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 – 21st century, male.

Born 1947.

Painter, sculptor (including bronze), installation artist.

Houston Conwill studied at Howard University, Washington DC. He is based in New York. He won the Rome Prize, awarded by the American Academy in Rome. The object of his work is to recreate the link between Afro-American culture, its African roots and the black diaspora around the world, as can be seen in ...

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

Morgan Falconer

(b Springfield, IL, 1943).

American installation artist, performance artist and sculptor. He studied in Los Angeles at the Chouinard Art Institute and the Otis Art Institute before settling in New York in 1974. He first gained a reputation for his series of Body Prints in the early 1970s. Often resembling X-rays in their detail and translucency, they are direct imprints of the body made on paper with grease. Injustice Case (1973; Los Angeles, CA, Mus. Contemp. A.) is typical in dealing with a contemporary racial issue, with the American flag framing the image presented in opposition to cultural and racial stereotypes; see also African–American Flag, 1990. Contemporaneous with these were the Spade series, which featured garden spades as defiant metaphors for his race, appropriating a derogatory term used by prejudiced whites. These served as a prelude to the found-object sculptures he began to make in the late 1970s from cheap and discarded items such as elephant dung, Afro hair, chicken bones, bottles and bags. Hammons justified his use of such non-art materials which marked a reaction against what he saw as ‘clean’ art, by pointing to the precedents of Dada, Outsider art and Arte Povera. It was these works that brought him greatest recognition. ...

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 century, male.

Born 1942, in Paterson (New Jersey).

Painter, sculptor, installation artist.

Ben Jones studied at Paterson State College, Wayne (New Jersey), at the Pratt Institute in New York and at New York University. He has taught at Jersey City College. In 1967...

Article

American, 20th century, male.

Born 1933, in Greenville (North Carolina).

Painter, sculptor, installation artist.

John Wilfred Outterbridge served in the American army in Korea and spent some time in Germany. Between 1956 and 1959 he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Center School of Design, Los Angeles. He was director of the Watts Towers Arts Center ...

Article

American, 20th century, male.

Born 17 August 1917, in Snow Hill (Alabama); died 5 March 2004, in Joshua Tree (California).

Sculptor, assemblage artist.

Noah Purifoy studied at Alabama State Teachers College in Montgomery, Alabama (graduating in 1943), where he also later obtained a MFA, at Atlanta University in Georgia (where he received a master of social service administration in ...

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 century, female.

Born 30 July 1926, in Los Angeles.

Painter, sculptor, assemblage artist, installation artist, illustrator.

Identity Art.

Betye Saar is the mother of Alison Saar. She studied at the University of California and the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California University in Long Beach and Northridge, as well as at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. She taught at the Otis Art Institute of the Parson School of Design in Los Angeles ...

Article

Jordana Moore Saggese

(b Baltimore, MD, Nov 15, 1948).

African American sculptor, jeweller, printmaker, installation artist, performance artist, and poet . Daughter of the renowned quiltmaker Elizabeth Talford Scott (b 1914), she received a BFA in art education from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, in 1970 and her MFA from Institute Allende in Mexico in 1971. She also studied at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, ME. As a visual and performance artist, Scott is most noted for works that engage with both politics and popular culture. The signature of Scott’s visual work is the application of beads, which she frequently used in her sculptures, installations, and jewellery. Her predilection for a material typically associated with craft, rather than fine arts, was inspired in part by the handicraft traditions of African and African American cultures. Such traditions were very familiar to Scott as her maternal grandfather was a basket-maker and a blacksmith and her paternal grandfather was a woodworker; her mother and grandmother both made quilts as well. The use of beads also connects Scott to a broader history of art. For example, one can see the influence of Yoruba beadwork in her creation of objects that are both beautiful and functional. The work also extends beyond Africa to include many other cultures and communities—Native American, Czech, Mexican, and Russian—which all have beading traditions. Scott’s manipulation of so-called women’s arts (i.e. quilting, sewing, and beadwork) connects her to a longer tradition of black feminist artists including Betye Saar and Howardena Pindell. Even with these connections to personal, cultural, and artistic histories, however, Scott’s materials are unique in that the sparkling and seductive surfaces they create are integral to the artist’s desire to shock and to surprise her viewers....

Article

Annie Dell’Aria

(b New York, April 14, 1964).

African American sculptor and installation artist. Raised in New York City and upstate New York, Simmons earned his BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1988 and his MFA from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in 1990. Studying at CalArts at the height of identity politics, Simmons became interested in cultural assumptions of his own African American identity. Following his graduate work, Simmons returned to New York and took up his practice in a studio space in a former school building. Simmons was primarily a sculptor when he first returned to New York, creating works such as Eraser Chair (1989; col. Blake Byrne, Los Angeles) and Six-X (1989; priv. col.), both of which address racial difference through the lens of childhood using schoolroom furniture. In his studio, Simmons became fascinated with the large rolling chalkboards around him, which led to the formal and aesthetic breakthrough that would inform much of his work for the next two decades....

Article

Jenifer P. Borum

(b Pittsburgh, PA, 1958).

American painter and sculptor. Raised in the working-class East Liberty section of Pittsburgh, Stout was encouraged to make art by members of her family—her maternal uncle, a painter, and her grandfather, a blues musician. As a child, she took classes at the Carnegie Museum of Art, where she was introduced to African art, a significant formative experience for Stout, who would subsequently go on to engage the vernacular language of the African Diaspora in the Americas.

Stout earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 1980. After graduation, she worked in residency at the Afro-American Artists Residency at Northeastern University in Boston. After moving to Washington, DC, in 1985, she began the ongoing practice of mixed-media assemblage that was to become her mature work. By reclaiming objects and elements from urban diasporic material culture such as root medicines, spirit writing and healing oils, Stout created assemblages and environments that effectively transformed gallery and museum spaces into liminal sites that mapped cultural crossroads—contact points between Africa and the Americas, tradition and innovation, high art and vernacular culture....

Article

Tracy Fitzpatrick

(b Bronx, NY, 1954).

American sculptor, installation and conceptual installation artist. Wilson was born in the Bronx, attended the LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan, and received his BFA from Purchase College, The State University of New York in 1976.

While at Purchase College, Wilson studied performance art and dance and also served as a guard at the Neuberger Museum of Art. After college, he worked in various capacities at several New York City museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History. In 1987, he became the director of the Longwood Arts Project, where he organized “Rooms With a View,” an exhibition for which he borrowed museum experiences, weaving together art objects, display space, and institutional labels to interrogate methods of museum display and the meanings generated therein. This strategy, an Institutional Critique that Wilson referred to as “tromp l’oeil curating,” has emerged as the focus of his artistic practice....