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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 15 March 1938, in the Bronx (New York City); died 2004.

Painter, draughtsman, pastellist, performance artist. Figure compositions, figures.

Emilio Cruz studied under George Grosz and Frank Reilly at the Art Students League, New York, the Seong Moy School of Painting and Graphic Arts, Provincetown, Massachusetts, the University of Louisville, Kentucky, and the New School for Social Research, New York. He taught at the Pratt Institute and New York University. He was also a writer....

Article

Rebecca Zorach

(b Chicago, IL, Aug 28, 1973).

Multidisciplinary visual artist whose work combines performance, installation, and social practice. Gates grew up in a tight-knit African American family in the East Garfield Park neighborhood of the west side of Chicago, and graduated from the selective public high school Lane Tech. He studied urban planning and ceramics in college, receiving a BS in Community and Regional Planning in 1996 from Iowa State University. He went on to obtain an MA in Fine Arts and Religious Studies in 1998 from the University of Cape Town, South Africa; followed it with a residency in ceramics in Tokoname, Japan; and returned to Iowa State for his MS in Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies in 2005. He began working in the early 2000s in an expanded ceramics practice that included conceptual performance using the invented Japanese ceramicist persona “Shoji Yamaguchi,” meals, music (with his performance ensemble, the Black Monks of Mississippi), poetry, and vernacular architecture that employed repurposed materials....

Article

American, 20th century, male.

Active also active in Italy.

Born 1943, in Springfield (Illinois).

Assemblage artist, installation artist, performance artist. Multimedia.

Conceptual Art, Identity Art.

David Hammons studied at the Chouinard and Otis Art Institutes in Los Angeles. Hammons' work, notably his series of Body Prints...

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 century, female.

Born in New York.

Engraver, sculptor, designer. Stage costumes and sets, murals, ceramics.

Valerie J. Maynard studied at the New School, New York, and Goddard College, Plainfield (Vermont). She is based in Baltimore (Maryland). She has exhibited in Sweden, Nigeria and, in the USA, at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, in ...

Article

Kate Wight

(b Lafayette, AL, 1900; d New Orleans, LA, July 8, 1980).

American painter, musician and evangelical preacher. Morgan lived in Alabama and Georgia in her early life and was married to Will Morgan in 1928. At the age of 38 she experienced a divine calling, which prompted her to become a street evangelist. Morgan believed she was called by God to preach the Gospel and serve through her art. She left her family and husband and moved to New Orleans. There, she ran a mission and orphanage for 17 years until in 1956 she again heard the voice of God, this time specifically telling her to paint.

The subject of her art was primarily the Bible, and particularly the Book of Revelation. Morgan’s drawings and paintings were often figural and featured text with apocalyptic messages. A popular phrase in her works was “Jesus is my airplane.” After a later revelation, Morgan believed she was the bride of Christ and began wearing only white garments. She began portraying herself in this way within her works....

Article

Reinhold Misselbeck

revised by Kimberly Juanita Brown

(Roger Alexander Buchanan )

(b Fort Scott, KS, Nov 30, 1912; d New York, NY, March 7, 2006).

African American photographer, writer, film maker, and composer. Parks was the youngest of 15 children and, after the early death of his mother, he took on responsibilities for himself and his family as a teenager. Parks worked in a number of professions before becoming a self-taught freelance photographer in 1937. After getting his start in fashion photography, he worked as one of the Farm Security Administration’s photographic team (1942–3) and held a similar post with the Office of War Information (1943–5). During this time he produced now iconic pictures such as American Gothic (1942), which features a black cleaner in front of the American flag staring into the camera with mop and broom upturned, as if in salute. Parks was soon hired as a photographer for Life magazine, where he worked from 1948 to 1961. During this period he famously photographed such political figures as Malcolm X, members of the Black Panther Party (along with Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver), as well as urban strife and poverty in Harlem, NY, and Rio de Janeiro. He took photographs of actors (Marilyn Monroe), sports heroes (Muhammad Ali), and singers (Barbra Streisand) while remaining dedicated to social ...

Article

James Smalls

(b New York, Sept 20, 1948).

African American conceptual and performance artist. Piper graduated with an Associate of Arts degree in painting and sculpture from the School of Visual Arts in New York City in 1969. While continuing to produce and exhibit her artwork, she received a BA in Philosophy from the City College of New York in 1974. During 1977–8, Piper studied Kant and Hegel at the University of Heidelberg and earned a PhD in Philosophy from Harvard University in 1981. She taught philosophy at Georgetown, Harvard, the University of Michigan, Stanford, and the University of California, San Diego. Her principal publications have been in meta-ethics, Kantian metaphysics, and the history of ethics. These interests also influenced her art. In 1987 she became the first tenured African American woman professor in the field of philosophy at Wellesley College and, through numerous scholarly books and articles, began to present her ideas through performance art, photography, and video....

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

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

American, 20th century, male.

Born 1912, in Madisonville (Kentucky); died 1985.

Painter (including gouache), watercolourist, illustrator. Religious subjects, figures, portraits, still-lifes. Stage costumes and sets.

Charles Sebree studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. From 1936 to 1939, he worked in Illinois for the Federal Art Project (the federal government programme set up to help artists during the Depression). He lived on the South Side of Chicago before retiring to Washington DC....

Article

Theresa Leininger-Miller

(b New York, Sept 17, 1896; d Haute-Savoie, April 3, 1940).

African American painter, printmaker and jazz musician. Smith was an internationally renowned artist in the 1920s and 1930s. He was an only child to chauffeur Alfred Renforth Smith and Elizabeth Smith, immigrants from Bermuda. Smith studied piano and guitar while attending the Ethical Culture Art School on scholarship and DeWitt Clinton High School in New York. Later, he studied under William Auberbach-Levy (1889–1964), Charles Curran (1861–1942) and Kenyon Cox at the National Academy of Design (1915–18), where he won several prizes, and the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Liège, Belgium. (Smith had first been abroad with the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I.) Once he settled in Paris in 1920, he exhibited his etchings, lithographs, paintings and drawings of scenes in France, Italy and Spain. Among other places, Smith also exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1921 as well as in Cannes, Brussels, New York and Boston. His frequent illustrations in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and National Urban League magazines, ...

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

American, 20th century, female.

Born 7 January 1909, in Lincoln (Nebraska); died 24 May 2003.

Engraver (including linocuts), draughtswoman. Stage costumes.

Ruth G. Waddy attended the University of Minnesota from 1927 to 1928 and moved to Chicago in 1929. Later, after she moved to California, she studied at the Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles. She co-founded the Art West Association in Los Angeles in the 1960s....

Article

Rochelle LeGrandsawyer

(b Newark, NJ, June 28, 1955).

African American performance and conceptual artist. Pope.L attended the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn (1973–5), Montclair College (BA 1978) and the Whitney Independent Study Program, New York (1977–8) before earning his MFA from Rutgers University (1981).

As the self-proclaimed “Friendliest Black Artist in America,” Pope.L approached the taboo and divisive subjects of race, sex and class as a comedic provocateur. Well-known Pope.L works, such as Eating the Wall Street Journal (2002) and Selling Mayonnaise for 100 Dollars a Dollop (1990–91), used humor and absurdity to engage socially-loaded subject matter. While Pope.L’s oeuvre spanned multiple media, much of his work took the form of public performance. For example, in The Great White Way: 22 miles, 5 years, 1 street (2002), Pope.L crawled, scooted and dragged himself—in segments over a five year period—through New York City on a 22-mile path from the Statue of Liberty to the Bronx, wearing a Superman costume and a skateboard strapped to his back....