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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

Bearden, Romare  

Dennis Raverty

(b Charlotte, NC, Sept 2, 1911 or 1912; d New York City, Mar 12, 1988).

African American painter, collagist, and author. Bearden is best known for his collages, which often addressed urban themes (e.g. The Dove). He was a founding member of Spiral, a group of African American artists who started meeting at his downtown New York studio in 1963. He also published essays and cartoons, designed book jackets, magazine and album covers, and is widely regarded as the first African American artist to successfully enter the mainstream of the contemporary art world. The posthumously published book he co-authored with Harry Henderson, A History of African-American Artists: From 1792 to the Present (1993), in a very short time became an almost canonical text in the field.

Bearden’s family moved permanently to Harlem, a predominately black neighborhood of New York City, in 1920. His mother, Bessye Bearden, was the New York correspondent for the Chicago Defender, an African American newspaper, and through her Bearden was introduced to many of the artists, writers, and intellectuals associated with the ...

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

Blayton-Taylor, Betty  

American, 20th century, female.

Born 10 July 1937, in Williamsburg (Virginia).

Painter, collage artist.

Betty Blayton-Taylor studied at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York and the Art Students League, New York. In 1968, she set up a children's art centre, the Children's Art Carnival, New York, under the aegis of the Museum of Modern Art. Blayton-Taylor paints abstracts based on the movement of dense colour and organic forms that suggest the human skeleton, as in ...

Article

Cave, Nick  

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

Cole, Willie  

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

Conwill, Houston  

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

Driskell, David Clyde  

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

Green, Renée  

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

Green, Renée  

American, 20th – 21st century, female.

Born 1959, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Installation artist, video artist, film maker.

Identity Art.

Renée Green attended the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1980, and received a BA from Wesleyan University in 1981. She has taught at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Vienna (...

Article

Hammons, David  

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

Hammons, David  

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

Harvey, Bessie  

Jenifer P. Borum

(b Dallas, GA, Oct 11, 1928; d Alcoa, TN, Aug 12, 1994).

Sculptor of African American and Native American heritage. Born to Homer and Rosie Mae White, Bessie Ruth White was the seventh of 13 children. She married Charles Harvey at age 14, and moved with him to Buena Vista, GA. She later separated from Harvey and moved to Alcoa, TN, where she settled and raised 11 children as a single mother.

Throughout most of her adult life, Harvey experienced visions that did not engage the dogma of her Christian faith, but rather revealed a powerful divine presence in nature. After the death of her mother in 1974, she began to see faces in the dead branches and roots found in the woods near her home in Aloca, and believed them to be animated by spirits. By adorning these roots and branches with paint, costume jewelry and found materials, Harvey revealed the identity of the spirits locked therein—some Biblical and some lost African ancestors. She understood her role as that of a conduit for divine intelligence, claiming “God is the artist in my work.”...

Article

Hassinger, Maren  

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

Hendricks, Barkley L.  

American, 20th–21st century, male.

Born 16 April 1945, in Philadelphia; died 18 April 2017, in New London (Connecticut).

Painter, watercolourist, draughtsman, photographer, collage artist. Figures, nudes, portraits, landscapes.

Barkley L. Hendricks studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and Yale University. He began teaching at Connecticut College, New London, in 1972. He painted life-size solitary figures such as Cool Raymond or New Orleans Niggah, where great care is given to the details of his models’ dress whilst their facial expressions suggest a sometimes melancholy remoteness. His permanent variations on the theme of African American figures invite us to question first impressions, says Floyd R. Thomas, curator of the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio: ‘He challenges us to explore our own reactions to the people whose portraits he paints. Why do I perceive them as I do? How do we differ; how are we the same? What are they thinking and why?’ An effect of presence-absence is achieved by showing his figures against a monochrome background, often the white on white he is famous for. The contrast between white suits and black skin, the shadow cast by a hat, the reflection caught in sunglasses ‘colour’ their presence. Their challenge to the viewer is the greater for the size of the canvas, which brings them face to face with the person represented. He took part in the exhibitions ...

Article

Hollingsworth, Alvin  

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

Howard, Mildred  

American, 20th century, female.

Born 1945, in San Francisco.

Assemblage artist, installation artist, collage artist.

Mildred Howard is based in Oakland (California), having studied at the College of Alameda then at John F. Kennedy University, Orinda. Her work is a labour of memory: she creates assemblages and installations celebrating the African-American experience: photo-portraits transferred on to panes and set in window sashes, installations centred on witness accounts of slavery and the history of the black people of the USA. Her universe is nostalgic, its figures rising from the past, either through photography or scraps of clothing, of bodies, evidence of their presence. She acts on her assemblages by punctuating them with dashes of colour which stress their poignancy. While this Modernist transposition only serves to heighten a sense of loss and regret, Mildred Howard is equally capable of a poetic celebration of human resilience. In ...

Article

Jackson, Oliver Lee  

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 ...