African-American Art Research Paper

Pages: 5 (1476 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Black Studies

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] Like Hayden's "Fetiche et Fleurs," Richmond Barthe's "Fera Benga" subverts European aesthetic norms. The "Fera Benga" small bronze statue is full of raw male potency. A naked man dances with a scimitar, a weapon that seems far more phallic than dangerous here. In addition to being filled with energy and motion, the statue also subverts European norms of male perfection and beauty. The "Fera Benga" does not need to be compared with Rodin, as Patton (1998) does, to be appreciated. This statue hearkens to every three-dimensional representation of the human form, from prehistoric art to Rodin. The "Fera Benga" is the idealized male form: no different from the Greek kouros. Only Hayden's form happens to be African. His pose also happens to be far different from Greek male forms, even athletic ones. Fera Benga's form is curvaceous, as if he is writhing with sexual energy in the middle of a dance.

Augusta Savage's "The Harp" is a sixteen-foot monumental sculpture rendered in plaster. Its sheer size is part of Savage's message: this is a piece that is larger than life. Savage painted the plaster black: an effect that lends the mass its gravity and also its symbolic color related to racial identity. The harp is composed of human forms: black spiritual singers. Savage captures the primary importance of music to African-American identity. The ultimate form of the sculpture is that of a musical instrument, on a larger-than-life scale. As if the harp was not enough to convey music, the artist also shows how black identity is inseparable from black music. The harp is the people; the people are the harp.

In front of the harp, a man kneels with a bar of musical notes. The gesture is clearly one of making an offering to the gods. Savage suggests two things by the male figure out front: one, that music is a genuine spiritual outpouring of love for God; and two, that African-Americans in particular use music as a means of creating and sustaining a spiritual community. The sculpture shows how closely African-American music is also linked with African-American spirituality. All the singers that comprise the harp are wearing choir robes, and they extend into the harp as if to infinity. The effect is one of the passage of generations, showing how music is one of the main ways African-American culture and tradition is disseminated from one generation to the next. Savage's "The Harp" shows that religion and music come together to create cultural cohesion in the African-American community.

All of the artists of the New Negro movement like Augusta Savage and Richmond Barthe were highly trained in formal Western schools. The artists of the Harlem Renaissance likewise demonstrated an understanding of European techniques and art history. African-American art during the early twentieth century paves the way for generations of artists to enter the community. Artists like Augusta Savage, Palmer Hayden, Meta Warrick Fuller, and Richmond Barthe show how African-Americans can study fine art in the European tradition while still retaining their roots. Blending African imagery and media with Western motifs and techniques becomes a form of personal and collective liberation. The art of twentieth century African-Americans resolves the conflict between the need to conform in order to gain cultural capital; and the need to resist conformity in order to celebrate African ancestry. Resolving this conflict has enabled young African-Americans to view fine art school as a possibility for forging a possible career path.

Furthermore, twentieth century African-American artists demonstrated the variety of ways of using creative self-expression as a means of communicating political ideals. All African-American art has a political dimension to it, even if that dimension is self-empowerment alone. For example, "The Harp" is not as notably about political liberation as "Ethiopia Awakening." Both, however, celebrate the singularity of the African-American experience. All African-American art challenges the hegemony of European aesthetic sensibilities. African-American artists have capitalized on the use of their respective media to make political statements, assert personal identities, and maintain community.

References

"Augusta Savage." Retrieved online: http://northbysouth.kenyon.edu/1998/art/pages/savage.htm

Lewis, S.S. (2003). African-American Art and Artists. University of California Press.

Patton, S.F. (1998). Twentieth century America and modern art. Chapter 3 in African-American Art. Oxford University Press.

Vendryes, M.R. (2008). Barthe: A life in sculpture. University Press of Mississippi.

Vendryes, M.R. (2003). Casting Feral Benga. Retrieved online: http://www.anyonecanflyfoundation.org/pdf/Vendryes_on_Barthe.pdf [END OF PREVIEW]

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African-American Art.  (2012, April 7).  Retrieved December 11, 2018, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/african-american-art/7851860

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"African-American Art."  Essaytown.com.  April 7, 2012.  Accessed December 11, 2018.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/african-american-art/7851860.