Studying Black and Visual Culture: An Ever-Evolving Addendum
A Book Display at the Sackler Library
Building on the Sackler’s 2018 Black History Month Book Display, we would like to extend the possibilities of study further, offering additional sources and consideration. (Please see Further reading at the end of this blog post.) As Ben Gable noted, Black History Month in the United Kingdom has its origins in the work of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a renowned African American historian. In 1926, Woodson proposed a week-long concentration on African American contributions to history and culture and established the Journal of Negro History to ensure critical scholarship and awareness of the African Diaspora. With an increasing interest in Black Studies, in 1976 the United States extended the week to a month-long focus, encouraging other countries to consider the opportunity to engage and address the history of the African Diaspora that has shaped global consciousness. At the forefront of the campaigns against institutional racism in the UK and the apartheid regimes in Southern Africa, Ghanaian political refugee Akyaaba Addai-Sebo worked with others to adapt the idea with a special focus on inspiring black youth. Black History month in the UK was established in 1987 with the intention of extending a broader global awareness.
To that end, we would like to offer an addendum to the excellent resources aleady assembled by the Sackler, calling out a wide array of writers and artists who continue to define and challenge our understanding of the African Diaspora. We are especially keen to emphasise the global character of this diaspora even while singling out titles from the literature published for English-speaking audiences. The primary setting of the slave trade, the Atlantic Ocean featured prominently in the creation of a diasporic Black consciousness. Books such as Slave Portraiture in the Atlantic and Characters of Blood: Black Heroism in the Transatlantic Imagination reflect this history, continuing an intellectual tradition that privileges the idea of movement over that of national identity. Moving into the present, Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okeke-Agulu’s Contemporary African Art Since 1980 reflects the growing ascendency of the African continent on the global art market, while Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria offers a case study that decenters the modernist canon beyond its Anglo-European axis. Indeed, the historic lacunae of the western art canon continues to be addressed by recent monographs and exhibition catalogues such as Richard Powell’s Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist and Jeffreen Hayes’s Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman, demonstrating the ways that these influential figures shaped transatlantic modernism.
Similarly, the formation of a Black visual culture in Britain is indebted to centuries of migrations across the British Empire and later the Commonwealth of Nations. Victorian Jamaica and An Eye for the Tropics: Tourism, Photography and Framing the Caribbean Picturesque examine the conflicts as well as the innovations that resulted from British ways of seeing being forcibly imported into the colonial Caribbean. In contrast, Black Britain: A Photographic History documents the lives of those who emigrated to the ‘motherland’ in the aftermath of the Second World War, as British territories across Africa and the Caribbean gained independence. The 1980s and 1990s witnessed the emergence of a new generation of Black British citizens who were born and raised in the UK. Frustrated with persistent racism and emboldened by the ideology of Black Power, they fought back. Artists like Eddie Chambers, author of Black Artists in British Art: A History Since the 1950s to the Present, embraced the separatist tactics championed by the Black Arts Movement in the US. In Britain, however, the term ‘Blackness’ had wider applications than in the United States, often accommodating strategic coalitions between artists of both African and Asian descent. The essays included in Shades of Black: Assembling Black Art in 1980s Britain are testament to a time when the very notion of ‘Blackness’ was dissected as part of the formation of an emerging postcolonial consciousness. Contemporary practitioners engage in a critical race theory as demonstrated by Huey Copeland in Bound to Appear, in which he considers how contemporary practitioners reframe strategies of representation and how blackness might be imagined and felt long after the end of the “peculiar institution” of slavery.
The artists involved in these foundational debates are only now receiving the recognition they deserve. Our display reflects this by including the recently published monograph on the Lubaina Himid CBE, who in 2017 was the first black woman artist to win the Turner Prize. We also include a monograph on Frank Bowling OBE RA, the British Guyanese painter who arrived in London in 1953 and whose tremendous achievements were celebrated last summer with a retrospective at Tate Britain.
We hope that this display will inspire staff and students alike, highlighting both the achievements of individual black artists and the influence of the African diaspora on Western culture more widely. Furthermore, we hope that it illuminates some of the ways in which race plays a part in the subject areas covered by the Sackler’s collections. The display will run until the end of the month, but the bibliography will remain accessible on this blog post.
Dr. Amy M. Mooney
Terra Foundation Visiting Professor of American Art
Department of the History of Art
Dr. Giulia Smith
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow
Ruskin School of Art
University of Oxford
Abdul Alkalimat, Romi Crawford and Rebecca Zorach, eds. The Wall of Respect: Public Art and Black Liberation in 1960s. Chicago, 2017.
Baker A., Houston, Manthia Diawara and Ruth H. Lindeborg, eds. Black British Cultural Studies: A Reader. London; Chicago, 1996.
Barringer, Tim and Wayne Modest, eds. Victorian Jamaica. Durham, 2018.
Battle-Baptiste and Britt Rusert, eds. W.E.B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America: The Color Line at the Turn of the Twentieth Century. New York, 2018.
Bernier, Celeste-Marie. Characters of Blood: Black Heroism in the Transatlantic Imagination. Charlottesville; London, 2012.
Bindman, David, ed. The Image of the Black in African and Asian Art. Cambridge, MA, 2017.
Boyce, Sonia and others, eds. Shades of Black: Assembling Black Art in 1980s Britain. Durham, 2005.
Buick, Kirsten P. Mary Edmonia Lewis and the Problem of Art History’s Black and Indian Subject. Durham, 2010.
Campt, Tina M. Image Matters: Archive, Photography and the African Diaspora in Europe. Durham, 2012.
Chambers, Eddie. Black Artists in British Art: A History Since the 1950s to the Present. London; New York, 2014.
Chang, Andrea, ed. Circles and Circuits: Chinese Caribbean Art. Durham, 2018.
Cleveland, Kimberly L. Black Art in Brazil: Expressions of Identity. Gainesville, FL, 2013.
Copeland, Huey. Bound to Appear: Art, Slavery and the Site of Blackness in Multicultural America. Chicago, 2013.
DuBois Shaw, Gwendolyn. Portraits of a People: Picturing American Americans in the Nineteenth Century, Andover, MA; London, 2006.
Enwezor, Okwui and Chika Okeke-Agulu. Contemporary African Art Since 1980. Bologna, 2010.
Frances, Jacqueline. Making Race: Modernism and “Racial Art” in America. Seattle, 2015.
Fracchia, Carmen. ‘Black but Human’ Slavery and Visual Arts in Hapsburg Spain, 1480-1700. Oxford, 2019.
Finley, Cheryl. Committed to Memory: the Art of the Slave Ship Icon. Princeton, 2018.
Fox-Amato, Matthew. Exposing Slavery: Photograph, Human Bondage, and the Birth of Modern Visual Politics in America. Oxford, 2019.
Gilroy, Paul. Black Britain: A Photographic History. London, 2007.
Godfrey, Mark and Zoé Whitely, eds. Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power. London, 2017.
Gooding, Mel. Frank Bowling. London, 2015.
Hayes, Jeffreen, ed. Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman. Jackson, Florida; London, 2018.
Jay, Martin and Sumathi Ramaswamy, eds. Empires of Vision. Durham, 2014.
Jones, Kelli. South of Pico: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s. Durham, 2016.
Lungo-Ortiz, Agnes and Angela Rosenthal, eds. Slave Portraiture in the Atlantic. Cambridge, 2013.
Mercer, Kobena. Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies. London, 1994.
Mercer, Kobena, ed. Annotating Art’s Histories: Cross-Cultural Perspectives in the Visual Arts (4 vols.). Cambridge, MA; London, 2005-2008.
Mercer, Kobena. Travel and See: Black Diaspora Art Practices Since the 1980s. Durham, 2016.
Miller, Monica L. Slaves to Fashion. Durham, 2009.
Murrell, Denise. Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet to Matisse to Today. New Haven, 2018.
Okeke-Agulu, Chika. Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria. Durham, 2015.
Pantin Malin Stahl, Lisa, ed. Lubaina Himid: Workshop Manual. London, 2019.
Patton, Pamela A. Envisioning Others: Race, Color, and the Visual in Iberia and Latin America. Leiden, 2015.
Powell, Richard J., ed. Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist. Durham, 2014.
Thompson, Krista. An Eye for the Tropics: Tourism, Photography and Framing the Caribbean Picturesque, Durham, 2006.
Thompson, Krista. Shine: The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice. Durham, 2015.
Walker, Hamza, ed. Black Is, Black Ain’t. Chicago, 2013.
Wallace, Maurice O., and Shawn Michelle Smith, eds. Pictures and Progress: Early Photography and the Making of African American Identity. Durham, 2012.
Walmsley, Anne. The Caribbean Artists Movement, 1966–72: A Literary and Cultural History. London, 1992.
Wainwright, Leon. Art and the Transnational Caribbean. Manchester, 2011.
Wainwright, Leon. Phenomenal Difference: A Philosophy of Black British Art. Liverpool, 2019.
Williams, Lyneise. Latin Blackness in Parisian Visual Culture, 1852-1932. London, 2019.
Willis, Deborah. Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers 1840 to the Present. New York; London, 2000.