1-20 of 43 results  for:

  • The Americas x
  • African Art x
Clear all

Article

Regenia Perry, Christina Knight, dele jegede, Bridget R. Cooks, Camara Dia Holloway and Jenifer P. Borum

[Afro-American; Black American]

Term used to describe art made by Americans of African descent. While the crafts of African Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries continued largely to reflect African artistic traditions (see Africa, §VIII), the earliest fine art made by professional African American artists was in an academic Western style (see fig.).

Regenia Perry, revised by Christina Knight

The first African American artist to be documented was Joshua Johnson, a portrait painter who practised in and around Baltimore, MD. Possibly a former slave in the West Indies, he executed plain, linear portraits for middle-class families (e.g. Sarah Ogden Gustin, c. 1798–1802; Washington, DC, N.G.A.). Only one of the approximately 83 portraits attributed to Johnson is signed, and none is dated. There are only two African American sitters among Johnson’s attributions. Among the second generation of prominent 19th-century African American artists were the portrait-painter ...

Article

Theresa Leininger-Miller

[Negro Colony]

Group of African American artists active in France in the 1920s and 1930s. Between the world wars Paris became a Mecca for a “lost generation” of Americans. Hundreds of artists, musicians, and writers from all over the world flocked to the French capital in search of a sense of community and freedom to be creative. For African Americans, the lure of Paris was enhanced by fear of and disgust with widespread racial discrimination experienced in the United States. They sought a more nurturing environment where their work would receive serious attention, as well as the chance to study many of the world’s greatest cultural achievements. France offered this along with an active black diasporal community with a growing sense of Pan-Africanism. Painters, sculptors, and printmakers thrived there, studying at the finest art academies, exhibiting at respected salons, winning awards, seeing choice art collections, mingling with people of diverse ethnic origins, dancing to jazz, and fervently discussing art, race, literature, philosophy, and politics. Although their individual experiences differed widely, they had much in common, including exposure to traditional European art, African art, modern art, and proto-Negritude ideas. As a result of their stay in Paris, all were affected artistically, socially, and politically in positive ways and most went on to have distinguished careers....

Article

James Smalls

[African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists]

African American group of artists. AFRICOBRA was an art movement formed in Chicago in 1968 by a coalition of eight African American artists devoted to celebrating and affirming the legitimacy of black artistic expression. The movement paralleled the black cultural revolution of the 1960s and incorporated elements of free jazz, vibrant color, the spiritual or transcendental, and “TransAfricanism.” The term TransAfricanism was invented and defined by Jeff Donaldson (1932–2004), one of AFRICOBRA’s principal founders, as a transcendent African-based aesthetic that simultaneously defines, directs, and fashions historical evolution. AFRICOBRA sought to develop a new and revolutionary black aesthetic based on African and African American approaches to art, taste, and beauty. These aspirations were combined with principles of social responsibility and involvement of artists in their local communities. The goal was to promote and instill pride in black self-identity through a self-defined black visual aesthetic.

Unlike most prior movements within African American art, AFRICOBRA’s work was not individualistic, but rather focused on collectivity and collaboration. AFRICOBRA grew out of the Chicago-based artists’ workshop OBAC (Organization of Black Artists of Chicago), whose founders included Donaldson, Wadsworth Jarrell (...

Article

Chika Okeke-Agulu

(b Cairo, May 22, 1963).

American painter, sculptor, fibre and installation artist of Egyptian birth. Amer, one of the few young artists of African origin to gain prominence in the late 1990s international art scene, studied painting in France at the Villa Arson EPIAR, Nice (MFA, 1989), and the Institut des Hautes Etudes en Art Plastique, Paris (1991). She subsequently moved to New York. She is best known for her canvases in which paint and embroidery are combined to explore themes of love, desire, sexuality, and women’s identity in a patriarchal world. Amer’s use of Embroidery, historically regarded as a genteel female craft, to create images of women fulfilling their sexual desires without inhibition, recalls the provocations and strategies of 1970s Western feminist art. However, her work also reflects her alarm at the incremental curbing of women’s social and political freedoms in her native Egypt following the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, especially after the regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser ended in ...

Article

Carol Magee

(b Dec 8, 1956).

Ethiopian painter, installation artist, graphic designer, and writer, active in the USA. She grew up in Addis Ababa in a family of painters before moving to the USA. She graduated from Howard University, Washington, DC, with a BFA in painting (1975) and returned in 1994 for an MFA. Her early works, based on dreams or visions, have richly textured surfaces. In the 1980s she abandoned her early palette of reds, ochres, and greens for one of purples and blues. Later paintings depict an urban environment and frequently evoke the feeling of dislocation and nostalgia that comes from living in a country that is not one’s own. Her use of themes and motifs from myriad cultures (including those of Ethiopia and Latin America) comes out of her experiences as a diasporic subject as well as the lives of the women around her. Her pieces often tell their stories, as in the Dream Dancers series (...

Article

Linda Mowat

Artefacts of more or less rigid construction produced by the interlacing of linear materials. Basketwork is of considerable antiquity (dating from at least 8000 bc in Egypt and Peru) and in one form or other has been practised almost everywhere in the world.

Basketry materials vary according to the environment of the basketmaker: the wood, bark, roots, shoots, stems, leaves and fibre of hundreds of trees and plants can be used. With few exceptions, these materials take time to find, select, gather and prepare. Many require pounding, stripping, splitting, gauging, drying, dyeing, bleaching or soaking before they can be used. The acquisition and preparation of materials often takes longer than the actual making of the basket.

Many of the baskets of northern and western Europe are made from rods of osier or basket willow. In North America splint baskets are made from split ash, oak, maple and hickory in the east; ...

Article

Martha Schwendener

[Ben Youseph Nathan, Esther Zeghdda]

(b London, Nov 21, 1869; d Brooklyn, NY, Nov 27, 1933).

American photographer. Born Esther Zeghdda Ben Youseph Nathan to a German mother and an Algerian father, she immigrated to the United States in 1895. She worked as a milliner in New York before opening a photographic portrait studio in 1897. Her ‘gallery of illustrious Americans’ featured actresses, politicians, and fashionable socialites, including President Theodore Roosevelt, author Edith Wharton, artist William Merritt Chase, and actress Julia Marlowe. Ben-Yusuf also created Pictorialist-inspired artwork like The Odor of Pomegranates (1899; see fig.), an allegory informed by the myth of Persephone and the idea of the pomegranate as a tantalizing but odourless fruit. Ben-Yusuf was included in an exhibition organized by the Linked Ring, Brotherhood of the in London in 1896 and continued to exhibit in the group’s annual exhibitions until 1902. Her photographs were exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1898 and at the Camera Club of New York in ...

Article

James Smalls

The Black Arts Movement spans the period from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. Inherently and overtly political in content, it was an artistic, cultural and literary movement in America promoted to advance African American “social engagement.” In a 1968 essay titled “The Black Arts Movement,” African American scholar Larry Neal (1937–81) proclaimed it as the “artistic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept.” The use of the term “Black Power” originated in 1966 with Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) civil rights workers Stokely Carmichael and Willie Ricks. Quickly adopted in the North, Black Power was associated with a militant advocacy of armed self-defense, separation from “racist American domination” and pride in and assertion of the goodness and beauty of “Blackness.”

In addition to “Black Power,” the slogan “Black is Beautiful” also became part of the Black Arts Movement and the Black Cultural Movement (also known as Black Aesthetics). The aim of these maxims was to counter and dispel the widespread notion throughout Western cultures that black people’s natural features, such as skin color, facial characteristics and hair, were inherently ugly. The central purpose was to subvert decades of anti-black rhetoric and “to make African Americans totally and irreversibly proud of their racial and cultural heritage.” Black Arts Movement cultural theorists and artists reasoned that promotion of a black aesthetic was mandatory to help the African American community perceive itself as not only beautiful, but also as proud of the legacy of African American achievement, self-determinacy and self-identification with all black peoples throughout the African diaspora. The tone was militant and separatist, not conciliatory and assimilationist, and resulted in a call for a revolutionary art that spoke to a definable black aesthetic. In ...

Article

Konjit Seyoum

[Eskender, Alexander]

(b Addis Ababa, July 22, 1937; d Washington, DC May 4, 2003).

Ethiopian painter of Armenian descent, active in the USA. Boghossian studied at St Martin’s School of Art and the Central School in London from 1955 to 1957. He then moved to Paris to study at the Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. During his Paris years, Boghossian embraced Pan-Africanist ideals and participated in the Negritude movement. Skunder returned to Ethiopia in 1966 and taught at the Fine Arts School in Addis Ababa, where he exerted considerable influence on young Ethiopian artists, until 1969. In 1967 he was awarded the Haile Selassie I Award for Fine Arts. He migrated to the United States in 1970 and became active in the Black Power movement. He joined Howard University in 1972 where he taught until 2001. During his tenure at Howard he inspired many Ethiopian diaspora and African American artists. Skunder drew on African mythology and Ethiopian Orthodox Church art to create mystical universes populated with masks, creatures, magical forms, and symbols. In works such as ...

Article

Carol Magee

(b Johannesburg, 1972).

South African multi-media artist, active in the USA. She received a BA in fine arts (University of Witwatersrand, 1993), an MA in art history (University of Chicago, 1995), and an MPhil in art history (Columbia University, New York, 1997). She was a fellow of the Whitney Independent Studio Program, New York (1996–7). Her work has been regularly included in biennials (including among others Johannesburg 1995, São Paulo 1998 and Venice (2005)), has been shown extensively in international solo and group exhibitions, and is owned by museums and private collectors throughout the world. In 2007 she was awarded the Prix International d’Art Contemporain by the Fondation Prince Pierre de Monaco. In photography, video, and installation, Breitz turns an insightful, playful, and critical eye towards issues of representation, identity, media, global capital, consumerism, celebrity, fandom, and language. Her work stretches from the problem of the cult of the individual to the question of how cultural and other forms of identity are established and maintained. In ...

Article

Konjit Seyoum

(b 1947).

Ethiopian painter and computer artist, active in the USA. He trained at the School of Fine Arts under Gebre Krestos Desta in 1967. He received a scholarship to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in Nigeria, where he earned a BA (1972). He then moved to the United States to be curator of the art gallery at Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD. He actively promoted Ethiopian art, curating two 1973 exhibitions that featured Ethiopian artists working in the USA. He was awarded an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore. His paintings from this period are figurative. He went on to receive a PhD in computer art from The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, and became a professor of art and director of the Computing Center for the Arts at North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC. His works from the 1990s are cibachrome prints of computer-manipulated imagery that range from complex compositions to simple figural depictions....

Article

Susan Kart

(b Nairobi, 1958).

Kenyan photographer, multimedia and performance artist, and teacher of Indian descent, active in the USA. DeSouza was born in Kenya to Indian parents. Raised in London from the age of 7, he called his background that of a ‘double colonial history’. DeSouza attended Goldsmiths College in London and the Bath Academy of Art, and although he has worked primarily in photography and as a writer on contemporary art, he has also branched out into performance art, digital painting, and textual and mixed media arts. He moved to the USA in 1992 and in 2012 became of Head of Photography at the University of California, Berkeley.

The primary themes in deSouza’s work are those of colonial encounter, seen in Indigena/Assimilado (1998), a photographic series of migrant workers in Los Angeles; migration, as explored in Threshold (1996–8), his early photographic series of airports empty of people; exile, which he explored in ...

Article

Dumile  

Steven Sack

(Feni) [Zwelidumile Geelboi Mgxaji Mslaba Feni]

(b Worcester, Cape Province, May 21, 1939; d New York, Oct 16, 1991).

South African sculptor and printmaker, active in South Africa, London and New York. After his mother’s death when he was c. eight years old, he lived with relatives in Cape Town until the age of eleven. In the early 1950s he moved to Soweto under the care of his uncle. In 1963 and 1964, while undergoing treatment for tuberculosis, he was given some art materials and began his drawing career in earnest. Like many black South African artists from the late 1950s, Dumile had to negotiate the laws of apartheid that made his presence as a self-employed artist in the white city an offence. Dumile described himself as having never received any ‘real’ tuition and talked of artists learning from one another. Dumile was ‘discovered’ by Madame Haenggi, an art dealer who promoted his early work.

Before his departure from South Africa in 1968, Dumile had a number of successful exhibitions of drawings and sculptures comprising portrayals of tormented and anguished people, animals and township scenes. These early works were acquired by some of the major museums in South Africa. On arrival in London (...

Article

Emerald  

Gordon Campbell

Green variety of Beryl, mined in Upper Egypt and India from antiquity and in Colombia both before and after the Spanish Conquest. Nero is said to have watched gladiatorial contests through an emerald. The two best-known emeralds are the Devonshire Emerald (London, Nat. Hist. Mus.) and the Patricia Emerald (New York, Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist.). The most famous historical emeralds are the 453 emeralds (totalling ...

Article

Elizabeth Meredith Dowling

(b Johannesburg, Sept 7, 1938).

American architect, teacher, historian, and writer of South African birth. Greenberg’s quiet, gentlemanly demeanor reflected the time-honored traditional and classical architecture he created over four decades. His stylistic choices are rooted in research and aesthetics. His fascination with 18th- and 19th-century American architecture is related to its genesis in the American Revolution and the commitment of those architects to expressing American democratic ideals in architectural form.

Greenberg graduated from King Edward VII School, a private preparatory school in Johannesburg, in 1955. He received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in 1961. Unlike American architecture schools of the period, his training was classically based and included drawing the historic models of Classical and Gothic architecture from memory. During his apprenticeship, he worked with Jørn Utzon in Hellebæk, Denmark, in 1962 during the design phase of the Sydney Opera House. In 1963, he continued his apprenticeship working with both ...

Article

Adam M. Thomas

[Osvaldo Luigi]

(b Cairo, Egypt, April 9, 1906; d Amagansett, NY, Sept 3, 1956).

American painter of Italian origin. After residing in Europe, his family relocated to New York in 1914. Guglielmi studied at the National Academy of Design from 1920 to 1925 and became a naturalized citizen in 1927. He arrived at his first mature painting style in the early 1930s. Guglielmi was among the principal practitioners of Social Surrealism, an American variant of European Surrealist art that adapted some of its imagery and techniques but eschewed its sexual symbolism and psychic automatism. Guglielmi rooted his pictures in the physical world in order to address social and political issues but, unlike Social Realism, did so through the use of unexpected or irrational juxtapositions and disorienting variations in scale. Although Guglielmi was not actively engaged in politics, many of his paintings contain expressly political, if sometimes ambiguous, content, such as Phoenix (The Portrait in the Desert) (1935; Lincoln, U. NE, Sheldon Mem. A.G.), in which a foreground portrait of Vladimir Lenin presides over a deserted landscape of factories and rubble....

Article

Sarah Urist Green

revised by Julia Detchon

(b Santiago, Chile, Feb 5, 1956).

Chilean architect, public interventionist, installation artist, photographer, and filmmaker, active in the USA. He first studied architecture at the Universidad de Chile in Santiago, then filmmaking at the Instituto Chileno-Norteamericano de Cultura, Santiago, concluding in 1981. Throughout his career, Jaar’s works have taken many forms in order to address global themes of injustice and illuminate structures of power. In over fifty projects he termed “public interventions,” Jaar conducted extensive research around the world to create site-specific works that reflect political and social realities near and far from his sites of exhibition. He created works—in gallery spaces and in public, often engaging spectator involvement—that present images critically and confront the social and political interests they serve.

Jaar’s first public intervention was Studies on Happiness (1979–1981), a three-year series of performances and exhibitions in which he asked the question, “Are you happy?” of people in the streets of Santiago. Inspired by ...

Article

Beth Dincuff Charleston

(b New York, June 27, 1945).

American fashion designer. Few designers have managed to be as influential as Norma Kamali without extensive press coverage. Specializing in ready-to-wear garments, Kamali introduced the world to the concepts of high-heeled sneakers and mix-and-match bikinis, originated the ‘sleeping bag’ coat and was the first designer to see the wide sartorial possibilities of both sweatshirt jersey and parachute silk (see fig.).

Kamali received her training at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, graduating in 1964 with a degree in fashion illustration. Kamali then worked as an airline employee, a job that introduced her to the pleasures of transatlantic shopping. In 1968, inspired by the fashions she saw in ‘swinging’ London, Kamali opened a boutique on 53rd Street in Manhattan. Mixed in with her British finds were her original designs, featuring appliqués of lizard, leather and snakeskin and rhinestone-studded t-shirts. When she moved to Madison Avenue in 1973, a ...

Article

Veerle Poupeye

[Wilkins, Ricardo ]

(b Kingston, Dec 1943).

Jamaican painter and teacher. He studied at the Jamaica School of Art, Kingston, and the Royal College of Art, London, and started exhibiting in the 1960s. In the early 1970s he lectured at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda. He headed the painting department at the Jamaica School of Art from 1973 to 1981, subsequently moving to Boston, MA, where he lectured at the Massachusetts College of Art. His work showed an emotional and spiritual response to his experience as a black man in a post-colonial New World environment and his allegiance to Africa as his ancestral homeland. Most of his paintings and works on paper are abstract or semi-abstract with a strong emphasis on colour, pattern and rhythm, for example Untitled (Apartheid) (1978; Kingston, N.G.). They represent a synthesis of North American Abstract Expressionism and the artist’s African–American cultural and philosophical heritage. His paintings have a spontaneous, discordant and moody quality reminiscent of jazz music, another New World art form....

Article

Andrew Scott Dolkart

(b Hempstead, NY, Aug 27, 1809; d Hempstead, July 24, 1871).

American architect. Kellum initially trained as a carpenter, and his architectural career began in the early 1840s when he entered the office of the Brooklyn architect Gamaliel King (1795–1875). Kellum opened his own office in 1859. He worked within the established stylistic currents of the period, designing primarily in the Italianate and Second Empire styles. He received several notable commercial commissions, including the first permanent building for the New York Stock Exchange (1863–5; altered 1880–81; destr. 1901), Wall Street, New York, and one major civic monument, the New York County Courthouse (1861–81; completed by Leopold Eidlitz; restored and converted into headquarters of the New York City Board of Education, 2002), City Hall Park, New York, commonly known as the ‘Tweed Courthouse’. Kellum was among the first architects to design buildings with cast-iron fronts. His Cary Building (1856–7; with Gamaliel King), Chambers and Reade streets, New York, with its iron façades cast in imitation of ...