African-American Art

Article excerpt

The contribution of African-Americans to American culture has been tremendous. This may be more evident in the areas of sports, music and the dramatic arts than in the visual arts. However, from the traditional arts of Africa and slave handicraft, to the Harlem Renaissance and beyond, African-American art and artisans have had a rich history in the visual arts.

Recently, art exhibits of exceptional quality have contributed to a greater awareness of African-American art. "Hidden Heritage: Afro-American Art of the 1800-1950" is an excellent body of works ranging from portraits of Joshua Johnston, an early pioneer, to Harlem scenes by Jacob Lawrence. "Turning Point" is a survey of work taken for the Amistad Collection, featuring artist Aaron Douglas (the late Fisk University great) and artist-teacher Hale Woodruff. "Art as a Verb" is an exhibit which has brought together works by African-American artists who have been active in the field of video, performance and environmental installations.

Recently, an exhibit titled "Forerunners and Newcomers" opened at the University of Houston, Clearlake. Organized by Sarah Trotty of Texas Southern University, the exhibit's intent is to demonstrate the abundance of African-American talent in Houston and surrounding areas. Artists in the exhibit include Dr. John T. Biggers who founded and headed Texas Southern University Art Department for more than thirty years; Carroll Sims, a noted ceramicist and sculptor; Bert Long, painter and sculptor; Rev. Clarence Talley, painter and sculptor; George Smith, sculptor; and Jesse Lott, folk artist. Listed among the younger artists are Lionel Lofton, collagist; David McGee, painter; and Karl Hall, painter.

There have also been numerous annual competitions specifically for African-American artists. Black Creativity is sponsored by the Museum of Life and Culture in Dallas, Texas. The Black Arts Alliance of Austin, Texas, has sponsored the "Texas Black Artists" exhibit for the last seven years. The Atlanta Life Insurance Co. has sponsored an annual competition of extremely high quality for the past ten years.

As you begin and continue your search in the field of African-American art and artists, the following sources and resources are available:

For more information on African-American artists


The Complete Annotated Resource Guide to Black American Art, compiled by Oakley N. Holmes Jr., Ed. D.

250 Years of Afro-American Art, Lynn Moody Igoe with James Igoe.


African Arts. Los Angeles: African Studies Center, University of California.

The International Review of African-American Art. Los Angeles.

American Visions. Washington, D.C.: Vision Foundation, Carter G. Woodson House, Smithsonian Institute.

Leading Educators and Writers:

Samella Lewis, art historian, publisher, art consultant

Elsa Honig Fine, art historian, educator

Barry Gaither, curator, museum director, art historian

J. Eugene Grigsby, art educator

Benny Andrews, art educator, artist

David Driskell, art historian, educator, artist

Lizzetta LeFalle-Collins, Curator, California Afro-American Museum

Lowery Sims, Curator, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Floyd Coleman, art historian, educator, artist

Margaret Burroughs, historian, consultant Richard Long, educator, historian

Notable African-American Artists:

Jacob Lawrence, painter (Washington)

Elizabeth Catlett, sculptor, printmaker (Mexico)

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