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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

Nizan Shaked

(b Buffalo, NY, May 9, 1968).

American painter and draftsman. She studied English and Studio Art at Williams College, Williamstown, MA, graduating with a BA in 1991. Shortly thereafter, she attended the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, New York, and completed her MFA in 1994 at Washington University, St Louis. Ali became known for her painting series Greenheads, in which round-headed characters perform choreographed activities against flat, light-blue backgrounds. These cartoon-styled allegories of American history and culture examine the sublimated or overt aggression inherent in activities such as team sports, ceremonies, military training, court marshaling and lynching. Referencing folk art or hieroglyphs, Untitled (Greenheads) (gouache on paper, 1998) depicts a sequence of disputes between uniformed characters and injured figures in athletic apparel. As with most of Ali’s oeuvre, the gestures and expressions of the figures communicate a sense of violent intensity, while the exact nature of the interaction remains enigmatic. Addressing the power dynamics of race, religion and gender, her scenarios respond to personal experience as well as local or world events, yet do not serve to represent them directly. Correspondingly, the single figures that appear in her later drawings and paintings display what initially seem to be specific ethnic tributes or dress codes, subsequently revealed to be invented and constructed by Ali. As it remains up to the viewer to interpret who these characters are or what may distinguish them as individuals, the perspective and biases of the viewer become part of the artwork’s meaning. The young, green-faced character in ...

Article

James Smalls

(b Knoxville, TN, Dec 30, 1901; d Paris, March 29, 1979).

African American painter. Beauford Delaney was the eighth of ten children born to John Samuel Delaney, a Methodist minister and barber who came from a sharecropping family, and Della Johnson Delaney, a strong and formidable figure who instilled in her children Christian virtues and a love for art and music.

In 1923, with the encouragement and financial help of a white patron, Delaney departed for Boston and informally enrolled in several art schools there including the Copely Society, the South Boston School of Art, and the Lowell Institute. While in Boston, Delaney befriended a white, liberal and quasi-aristocratic family, the Bryants, who introduced the aspiring artist to influential people of liberal Boston society. It was through his experiences with this circle that Delaney was introduced to activist politics and radical racial ideas of the time. It was also at this time that Delaney had his first homosexual encounter.

With his artistic and political education complete, Delaney decided to venture to New York City. He arrived nearly penniless in Harlem in ...

Article

Karen Kurczynski

Alternative art space founded by Stefan Eins (b 1943) at 2803 Third Avenue near 147th Street in the South Bronx, New York, from 1978 to 1993. Eins arrived in New York from Austria in 1967. He referred to Fashion Moda as a museum of “Science, Art, Technology, Invention, and Fantasy,” the title of its inaugural exhibition in 1979. He had previously run a downtown storefront art space called the Mercer Street Store at 3 Mercer Street from 1971 to 1978. Black downtown artist, poet and musician Joe Lewis served as Co-Director of the space with Eins, and William Scott, then a teenager from the neighborhood, served as Junior Director. Their collaborative ventures attempted to connect the street culture of the South Bronx, by then a neighborhood in the midst of massive economic decline, to an international cultural scene.

From its opening in 1978, annually funded with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council of the Arts and other sources, Fashion Moda held auctions, performances, seminars and other events. Joe Lewis described it as “an outlet for the disenfranchised, a Salon des Réfusés that cut across the uptown/downtown dichotomy, across the black/white/Hispanic isolation.” Although its glass storefront was located in a neighborhood far from the Soho gallery district, its impact has been measured largely by its effect on the more mainstream art world of the 1980s and early 1990s. It introduced and exhibited a number of artists including Charles Ahearn, John Ahearn (...

Article

Geoffrey Belknap

(b Paris, c. 1816; d New Orleans, LA, Jan 9, 1866).

African American lithographer, daguerreotypist, and painter of French birth. Lion was born in Paris and trained as an artist in France before moving to the United States in 1837. He is noted as the first African American to adopt the daguerreotype method, and one of the first daguerreotypists active in the United States. For much of his life, Lion resided in New Orleans and operated his photographic studios in the city. He was active as a photographer for a relatively short period of time—between 1840 and 1845—and because of this only a small number of his views of New Orleans streets remain, primarily in the form of lithographic prints made from daguerreotypes (now presumed lost). In addition to making his lithographic copies, Lion gained notoriety in New Orleans for offering lectures and exhibitions of the daguerreotype process following the announcement of its invention. After leaving photography behind in 1845...

Article

Theresa Leininger-Miller

(b Warwick, RI, March 19, 1890; d Providence, RI, Dec 1960).

African American sculptor and teacher, active also in France. Prophet studied drawing and painting at the Rhode Island College School of Design, Providence, where she graduated in 1918. She went on to make portraits in Providence and then moved to Paris in 1922 looking for more opportunities and to escape a difficult marriage. There she studied with Victor Segoffin at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, completing at least two busts in 1923, one of which was included in the Salon d’Automne the following year. In 1924 Prophet made and sold batik, and sculpted her first lifesize statue, Volonté, which she subsequently smashed because she found it mediocre.

Lonely, frustrated, and nearly penniless, Prophet moved to a tiny atelier in Montparnasse in June 1926, where she lived for the next seven years. Her first work there was Poverty (or Prayer, 1926), a life-size plaster female nude in a contrapposto pose, with a snake curling about her ankles. Her other untitled androgynous figures and busts from the same time are reminiscent of the work of Emile-Antoine Bourdelle, a student of Auguste Rodin. They feature close-cropped hair, heavy-lidded eyes, enigmatic smiles, and small breasts and hips; usually ethnically ambiguous, Prophet’s works may reflect her ambivalence about her mixed African American and Naragansett–Pequot heritage....

Article

Stuart Romm

(b Rotherham, England, Mar 27, 1920; d Arlington, VA, Nov 5, 1999).

American architectural historian, theoretician and educator. Born in Yorkshire, Rowe studied at the Liverpool School of Architecture, where he would later return as a tutor (1950–2), influencing several students of future international prominence, such as James Stirling . Between these periods Rowe had served in the British Infantry (1942) and studied at the Warburg Institute in London under Rudolf Wittkower (1945–6). In 1952 Rowe came to the USA, where he briefly taught at Yale University before taking an academic post at the University of Texas in Austin. After a short return to England where he taught at Cambridge, Rowe eventually settled in the United States to become the Andrew Dickson White Professor of Architecture at Cornell University for 28 years. Although Rowe became an American citizen in 1984, he received the Royal Institute of British Architects’ highest honor, the Gold Medal, in 1995. Colin Rowe was renowned as a major intellectual influence in the field of architecture and urbanism during the second half of the 20th century, pioneering a critical reappraisal of the modern movement’s espoused rupture with history. In his famous essay “The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa” (...

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, ...