Black History Month offers not only the occasion to consider the innumerable episodes in which Black figures and communities have shaped the story of America, but it also asks us to invert that very lens on ourselves contemporaneously: to examine our own position in history, to question the antecedents of our moment, and to collaborate on our future steps, towards the hope of a brighter and more just horizon.
Join us in this reflection throughout the month, as we highlight select new releases, as well as titles from our backlist, that speak to this profound legacy.
Stick to the Skin
African American and Black British Art, 1965-2015
by Celeste-Marie Bernier
“A long-overdue comparative and interdisciplinary history of African American and Black British art and artists that gives critical voice and analytical exposure to those artists who have been alienated within their own marginalized status. Impressively thorough, praiseworthy, and necessarily bold.”—James Smalls, Professor of Visual Arts, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
The first comparative history of African American and Black British artists, artworks, and art movements, Stick to the Skin traces the lives and works of over fifty painters, photographers, sculptors, and mixed-media, assemblage, installation, video, and performance artists working in the United States and Britain from 1965 to 2015. The artists featured in this book cut to the heart of hidden histories, untold narratives, and missing memories to tell stories that “stick to the skin” and arrive at a new “Black lexicon of liberation.”Celeste-Marie Bernier’s remarkable text forcibly asserts the originality and importance of Black artists’ work and emphasizes the need to understand Black art as a distinctive category of cultural production
Painting Harlem Modern
The Art of Jacob Lawrence
by Patricia Hills
“Hills offers a beautifully illustrated, critical assessment . . . By paying close attention to Lawrence’s sophisticated imagery and situating his work within its rich cultural and political contexts, Hills provides a much-needed analytical discussion of his oeuvre and a thoughtful account of race in 20th-century American art and life. . . . Highly recommended.”—Choice
Jacob Lawrence was one of the best-known African American artists of the twentieth century. In Painting Harlem Modern, Patricia Hills renders a vivid assessment of Lawrence’s long and productive career. She argues that his complex, cubist-based paintings developed out of a vital connection with a modern Harlem that was filled with artists, writers, musicians, and social activists. She also brings insightful analysis to his work, beginning with the 1930s street scenes that provided Harlem with its pictorial image, and follows each decade of Lawrence’s work, with accounts that include his impressions of Southern Jim Crow segregation and a groundbreaking discussion of Lawrence’s symbolic use of masks and masking during the 1950s Cold War era.
Kara Walker and the Imagining of American Race
by Rebecca Peabody
“Rebecca Peabody’s lyrically written, provocative, and smart new take on Kara Walker (b. 1969) suggests that there is, in fact, much more to say about this artist…. Peabody has set the bar high. Not only does she rigorously review the copious literature on Walker, but she has taken considerable trouble to familiarize herself with Walker’s own words and ideas in order to present as thorough a critique of this enigmatic artist. Brava.”—Woman’s Art Journal
In Consuming Stories, Rebecca Peabody uses the work of contemporary American artist Kara Walker to investigate a range of popular storytelling traditions with roots in the nineteenth century and ramifications in the present. Focusing on a few key pieces that range from a wall-size installation to a reworked photocopy in an artist’s book and from a theater curtain to a monumental sculpture, Peabody explores a significant yet neglected aspect of Walker’s production: her commitment to examining narrative depictions of race, gender, power, and desire. Consuming Stories considers Walker’s sustained visual engagement with literary genres such as the romance novel, the neo-slave narrative, and the fairy tale and with internationally known stories including Roots, Beloved, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Walker’s interruption of these familiar works , along with her generative use of the familiar in unexpected and destabilizing ways, reveals the extent to which genre-based narrative conventions depend on specific representations of race, especially when aligned with power and desire.
The Art of Norman Lewis
edited by Ruth Fine
Winner of the College Art Association’s 2017 Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award
This beautifully illustrated catalogue accompanies the first major museum retrospective of the painter Norman Lewis (1909–1979). Lewis was the sole African American artist of his generation who became committed to issues of abstraction at the start of his career and continued to explore them over its entire trajectory. His art derived inspiration from music (jazz and classical) and nature (seasonal change, plant forms, the sea). Also central to his work were the dramatic confrontations of the civil rights movement, in which he was an active participant among the New York art scene. Bridging the Harlem Renaissance, Abstract Expressionism, and beyond, Lewis is a crucial figure in American abstraction whose reinsertion into the discourse further opens the field for recognition of the contributions of artists of color. Bringing much-needed attention to Lewis’s output and significance in the history of American art, Procession is a milestone in Lewis scholarship and a vital resource for future study of the artist and abstraction in his period.