African American Art

African American art is a collective term used to describe various visual art forms of the African American community. The African American art evolved from various cultural influences – including those of Africa, the two Americas and Europe. The traditional art forms of the African American community include pottery, basket weaving, woodcarving, painting and even quilting.

The African people brought to America were equipped to work in the creative art genre genetically. The majority of the Africans came from West Africa; this section is highly developed in the arts. The African metalworkers and wood-carvers brought to America, designed totem animals, images and other tribal life objects.

The History

The first generation African American artists rather the forefathers of African American art creators have been the then slaves, engaged as blacksmiths, basket makers, cabinetmakers, potters, quilters and silversmiths. Many of these early artists were highly skilled.

The African American art was put up for exhibitions in the museums after the end of the Civil War. The art-works of this phase reflected the trend of the European romantic and classical traditions for the depiction of portraits and landscapes. Some famous artists of this period were Edward Mitchell Bannister, Edmonia Lewis and Henry Ossawa Tanner.

The African American artworks were received warmly in Europe, specifically in Paris. Paris has always had a greater freedom for expression. (Here, the artists have complete freedom, whether it is all about educating themselves in new techniques or experimenting with forms that stretch beyond the limits of traditional western artworks).

The Harlem Renaissance

When you are talking about African American art, it is near to impossible not mentioning the Harlem Renaissance; this was one among the most significant movements in the history of the African American artworks. The concepts of liberty and freedom spread to many parts of the world and made their presence felt into the artistic communities of the United States during the 1920s.

Some renowned African American artists of this period were Palmer Hayden, Archibald Motley, Aaron Douglas, William H. Johnson, Richmond Barthé, Malvin Gray Johnson, Sargent Johnson, and Hale Woodruff. While the paintings of these people became very popular, the photographs of James Van Der Zee stole hearts of millions all round the world.

Following infiltration of postmodernist concepts, African American art has become associated with art-as-performance; it now depicts cultural relativity, critical inquiries of art and society through one’s work as well as interrogations of identity, geography, and history.

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