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Article

Alston, Charles  

American, 20th century, male.

Born 28 November 1907, in Charlotte (North Carolina); died 27 April 1977, in New York.

Painter, sculptor, illustrator, lithographer. Murals.

Groups: Spiral, 306.

Charles Alston moved to New York with his mother in 1914, after his father died. Alston received his BA and MA (...

Article

Amos, Emma  

American, 20th – 21st century, female.

Born 1937, in Atlanta; died 20 May 2020, in Bedford (New Hampshire).

Painter, draughtswoman, print artist, photographer. Mosaics, posters.

Spiral Group.

Emma Amos studied at Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio, the Central School of Art, London, and New York University. She started her career as a fabric designer. From 1964 to 1982, she worked at Robert Blackburn’s Printmaking Workshop in New York. She was the only woman in the Spiral Group from 1963 to 1965. Later, she became involved in the feminist movement, and contributed to publications such as Heresies and M/E/A/N/I/N/G. In 1980, she took up a teaching job at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey.

Amos thought that her identity as an African-American artist led her necessarily to create political art to counter racism in the USA. Using various techniques, including photography, she sewed the sections of her pictures to pieces of African fabric. Her works, which do not use a stretcher, recall Faith Ringgold’s painted story quilts. Sometimes they are out-and-out political statements, such as ...

Article

Amos, Emma  

Joan Marter

revised by Gabriella Shypula

(b Atlanta, GA, Mar 16, 1937; d Bedford, NH, May 20, 2020).

American painter, printmaker, and weaver. Born in segregated Atlanta, GA, Emma Amos grew up in an upper-middle-class family with connections to influential Black figures including W. E. B. Du Bois and Zora Neale Hurston. At age sixteen, she had exhibited her work at Atlanta University and enrolled in a five-year BFA program at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH (1953–1958). She went on to study etching, painting, and weaving at the Central School of Art, London (1958–1959) where she began creating gestural abstractions, experimenting with color, brushwork, and space to evoke specific places (e.g., Shepherd’s Path, 1958). In 1960 Amos moved to New York, where she worked as a rug designer for Dorothy Liebes, an art instructor. Simultaneously, she advanced her printmaking at two printmaking workshops: Robert Blackburn’s and Letterio Calapai’s (an outpost of Stanley William Hayter’s Atelier 17). Amos completed her MA at New York University (NYU) in ...

Article

Anderson, Akili Ron  

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

Andrews, Benny  

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

Andrews, Benny  

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

Artis, William Ellisworth  

American, 20th century, male.

Born 2 February 1914, in Washington (North Carolina), 1919, according to some sources; died 1977.

Sculptor, print artist, ceramicist, illustrator.

William E. Artis studied at the University of Syracuse, New York, New York State University and the Art Students League, New York. He was also a student of Augusta Savage at the Harlem Community Art Center, New York. Artis expressed his humanist ideals by depicting impassive faces in a purified style, combining African and classical sculpture....

Article

Bearden, Romare Howard  

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

Biggers, John  

James Smalls

(b Gastonia, NC, April 13, 1924; d Houston, TX, Jan 25, 2001).

American painter, draftsman, printmaker and sculptor. John (Thomas) Biggers, the youngest of seven children, grew up in segregated Gastonia, NC. Upon the death of his father in 1937, his mother sent him away to Lincoln Academy to receive a high quality education. While there, he learned a great deal about African art and the value of African culture; these were lessons he would carry with him throughout his career. Although African influences were most noteworthy in his works, he also managed to synthesize elements from American Regionalism, the African American figurative tradition and Native American sources. In 1941, Biggers entered the Hampton Institute (later renamed Hampton University) in Virginia, where he studied art. In 1943, his mural Dying Soldier was featured in the landmark exhibition Young Negro Art, organized for the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In that same year, he was drafted into the United States Navy. After receiving an honorable discharge three years later, he enrolled at the Pennsylvania State University. He received his BA and MA degrees in ...

Article

Biggers, John Thomas  

American, 20th century, male.

Born 13 April 1924, in Gastonia (North Carolina); died February 2001.

Painter, sculptor, draughtsman, print artist, illustrator. Figures, scenes with figures. Murals.

John Biggers studied at the Hampton Institute, Hampton, Virginia. From 1943 to 1945, he served in the US navy. After the war, he studied under Viktor Lowenfeld at Pennsylvania State University, first earning a BS, and then an MS in ...

Article

Billops, Camille  

Deborah Cullen

(b Los Angeles, CA, Aug 12, 1933).

African American filmmaker, sculptor, printmaker and archivist of African American culture. Camille Billops received her BA from California State College and her MFA from the City College of New York. A visual artist, filmmaker and archivist, Billops’s darkly humorous prints and sculpture have been exhibited internationally, including at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Design, the New Museum and the Bronx Museum, New York; the Library of Congress, Washington, DC; Clark College, Atlanta University; the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA; Museo de Arte Moderno La Tertulia, Cali, Colombia; Gallerie Akhenaton, Cairo, Egypt; the American Center, Karachi, Pakistan; and the American Cultural Center, Taipei, Taiwan. Billops received a Percent for Art commission in New York and was a long-time member of Robert Blackburn’s Printmaking Workshop (PMW), traveling to establish the first summer printmaking workshop in Asilah, Morocco, with the PMW delegation.

As a filmmaker, Billops earned a National Endowment for the Arts award. Her films have been shown on public television and at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. She collaborated with photographer James Van Der Zee (...

Article

Billops, Camille  

American, 20th century, female.

Born 1934, in Los Angeles.

Sculptor, ceramicist, draughtswoman, print artist, photographer, film maker. Figures, scenes with figures. Murals.

Camille Billops has a BA from California State College and an MFA from City College in New York. She settled in New York, where in ...

Article

Blackburn, Robert  

Deborah Cullen

[Bob] (Hamilton)

(b Summit, NJ, Dec 10, 1920; d New York, NY, April 21, 2003).

African American printmaker and educator. Robert Blackburn’s family moved to Harlem when he was six years old. Blackburn attended meetings at “306” and learned lithography in 1938 at the Harlem Community Art Center. He earned a scholarship to the Art Students League from 1940 to 1943 and worked for the Harmon Foundation in the mid 1940s. In 1948, he opened the Printmaking Workshop (PMW) in Chelsea, a cooperative where he and his friends could pursue experimental fine art lithography. By 1955, students from S. W. Hayter’s Atelier 17, an experimental intaglio workshop, were in attendance. Blackburn earned his living by teaching lithography and printing editions for artists. He became one of the first black technicians at Cooper Union. From 1952 to 1953, Blackburn went to Paris on a John Hay Whitney traveling fellowship, where he worked at the Jacques Desjobert Workshop and then traveled around Europe. He returned to New York and his Printmaking Workshop in ...

Article

Blackburn, Robert (Bob)  

American, 20th century, male.

Born 1920, in Summit (New Jersey); died 21 April 2003, in New York.

Painter, print artist. Murals.

306 Group.

The son of Jamaican immigrants, Bob Blackburn grew up in Harlem, where he met many artists associated with the Harlem Renaissance. He studied at the Harlem Community Art Center ...

Article

Bradley, Peter  

American, 20th century, male.

Born 15 September 1940, in Connelsville (Pennsylvania).

Painter, print artist.

Peter Bradley studied at Cranbrook Academy, Bloomsfield, Michigan, the Society of Arts and Crafts in Detroit, and Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. He settled in New York. Bradley has taken part in various group shows, such as: ...

Article

Brown, Grafton Tyler  

Gina M. D’Angelo

(b Harrisburg, PA, Feb 22, 1841; d St Paul, MN, March 2, 1918).

African American painter and lithographer. Brown was the first African American artist to portray California and the Pacific Northwest. One of many artists who migrated West in the years after the gold rush, Brown began his career in San Francisco in the 1860s as a commercial lithographer, and made his mark in the 1880s as a landscape painter of the Pacific Northwest.

The son of freed slaves, Brown probably began his career working at the lithographic firm of P. S. Duval in Philadelphia, and in the late 1850s followed C. C. Kuchel, a Duval lithographer and his soon-to-be employer, to San Francisco. From 1861 to 1867 he worked as a draftsman and lithographer at the Kuchel & Dressel firm in San Francisco, and in 1867 established his own firm, G. T. Brown & Co. His most celebrated project, The Illustrated History of San Mateo County (1878), featured 72 city views whose sensitive topographical style would influence his paintings. Brown sold his firm in ...

Article

Browne, Vivian E.  

American, 20th century, female.

Born 29 April 1929, in Laurel (Florida); died 23 July 1993, in New York.

Painter, print artist, illustrator. Figures, portraits, landscapes, still-lifes.

Vivian E. Browne studied at Hunter College, New York, earning a BS in 1950, and an MA in 1959...

Article

Burroughs, Margaret T. G.  

American, 20th century, female.

Born 1 November 1917, in St Rose (Louisiana).

Sculptor (bronze), engraver, painter, illustrator, watercolourist, writer. Figures, portraits, genre scenes.

Margaret T.G. Burroughs studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and Illinois State University. In 1961, Burroughs and her husband founded the Ebony Museum of Negro History and Art at their home in Chicago. The museum remains under Burroughs' directorship, but was later renamed the DuSable Museum of African American History. In ...

Article

Carraway, Arthur  

American, 20th century, male.

Born 1927, in Fort Worth (Texas).

Painter, print artist.

Arthur Carraway studied at the California School of Fine Arts and worked as a sailor in the merchant marine. He spent two years in East Africa, where he discovered Tanzania's Makonde sculpture. It would influence him deeply, as can be seen in, for instance, ...

Article

Catlett, Elizabeth  

Paul Von Blum

(b Washington, DC, Apr 15, 1915; d Cuernavaca, Mexico, Apr 3, 2012).

African American sculptor, printmaker, and art educator, active also in Mexico. One of the leading African American feminist and political artists of the 20th century and early 21st century, Catlett devoted her career of more than sixty years to expressing critical ideas in powerful visual form both in the United States and in her adopted country of Mexico. Her strong academic background began at Howard University, Washington, DC, where she studied under African American artists James Porter (d 1939), James Wells, and Lois Jones. After graduating in 1937, she completed her MFA in 1940 at the University of Iowa.

In 1941 she married the artist Charles White. Visiting Mexico, they found the Mexican mural and printmaking tradition artistically and politically engaging. After her first marriage ended in 1946, she moved to Mexico in the wake of American postwar political repression. While working at the Taller de Gráfica Popular in Mexico City, she met the Mexican artist ...