This book examines the quilts, ceramics, paintings, sculpture, installations, assemblages, daguerreotypes, photography and performance art produced by African American artists over a two hundred year period. The author draws on archaeological discoveries and unpublished archival materials to recover the lost legacies of artists living and working in the United States. As the first critical study to provide in-depth case studies of twenty artists, this book introduces readers to works created in response to the Middle Passage, Atlantic slavery, lynching, racism, segregation, and the fight for civil rights. Bernier examines little-discussed panoramas, murals, portraits, textile designs, collages and mixed-media installations to get to grips with key motifs and formal issues within African American art history. Working within this tradition, artists experiment with cutting edge techniques and alternative subject-matter to undermine racist iconography and endorse a new visual language. They push thematic and formal boundaries to create powerful narratives and epic histories of creativity, labour, discrimination, suffering and resistance.
By providing close readings of works by artists such as Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence, William Edmondson, Howardena Pindell, Charles Alston, Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, Betye Saar, Horace Pippin and Kara Walker, this book sheds new light on the thematic and formal complexities of an African American art tradition which still remains largely shrouded in mystery. Includes 16 colour photographs.