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tv   Lectures in History 1960s 70s African American Art  CSPAN  March 31, 2019 12:00pm-1:51pm EDT

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watching american history tv, all weekend every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history. >> next on lectures in history, randolph-macon college professor evie terrono teaches a class about african-american art in the 1960s and 1970s. she highlights how artists of the period created works reflecting on racism and the black is beautiful movement. her class is about one hour and 45 minutes. onmerrick in history tv is c-span3 every weekend and our programs are archived on her website at c-span.org/history. you can watch lectures of college classrooms and see our schedule of upcoming programs at c-span.org/history. >> our focus today will be on the ways in which
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african-american women artists essentially in the civil rights period of the 1960s and 1970s responded to gender and racial shifts. already covered the responses among african-american male artists, so we will encounter some radical differences. i use these covers from life magazine to alert you to some of the truly momentous changes in the period. last time, we discussed the importance of 1968 and 1969, the radical transformations in american society. i use these because the shifts are reflected not only in visual arts, but in material culture. i chose on the far left the
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cover from 1968 that explored the challenges that african-americans faced in the ghetto. i will show you a detailed. -- detail of that. we talked about this last time, the u.s. was in the midst of the vietnam conflict. in this case, life magazine devoted its cover of the faces of the american dead. the interior of the magazine identified those that had fallen on the front. the landing on the moon obviously made the first page, not only of life, but other magazines. in this particular case, life devoted a volume exclusive to the landing. i chose to focus on this idea of black is beautiful, which is something i will pursue through the presentation today.
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as you know, the links are functional. you can pursue on your own the content. i will be referring to many of them. i will start with the cover of life on march 1968. i showed the interior page of the contents because some of the figures that contributed to these you are already familiar with. why go into the ghetto? the first figure is gordon parks, the photographer. the second figure down is the midwest regional correspondent for life magazine. the figure at the bottom was the editor of the village voice. in the narrative, as you see on
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the left portion of the presentation, gordon parks detailed the experiences of a family in harlem. the subtext says a negro photographer explores the agony of the poor in new york slums. the others explored reverberations of the same theme regionally. my focus today will be on the intersections of racial, gender, social, and economic debates. amid escalating racial violence, the confrontations, and the debates over the war in vietnam, and the intensifying anxieties in the civil rights era that created remarkable social transformations and
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consequently, a tremendous sense of unease among americans. it is indeed this nexus of racial violence, vigilante justice, which of course we have talked about in different contexts, and interventions in protest against the vietnam war and governmental overreach, along with the escalating intensity of the movement that prompted cultural responses in a number of media. our concentration today will be on the visual arts. we have already discussed the impact of suffrage in the visual arts at the turn of the last century. once women received the vote, they expanded their fight to
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expand privilege. in the context of the second wave feminism, they embraced activism that would facilitate access to legal, social, economic, and political equality. from the 1960s to the 1990's, they often challenged legal inequities. they were concerned about women's sexuality and reproductive rights, and they claimed equality at the workplace. i'm citing an extremely influential text by betty friedan, "the feminine mystique," who suggested it was not only society, but media that restricted american women in the household what was considered their "proper sphere."
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that was the space in which women could realize their essentialist roles as wives and mothers. we see a number of organizations, including the national organization of women, that would fight for the extension of women's rights, including the privilege to determine their own sexuality and reproductive rights that ultimately would bring about the much contested roe v. wade. the challenge was black women were very much excluded. in this particular case, i'm citing someone who claimed a different space for african-american women.
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she said "during the mid to late 60's, as women in the u.s. politicized themselves and came together in the feminist movement with the purpose to end discrimination and exploitation by the white male culture, they failed to remember us. they failed to remember women of color and other minorities. american feminism as it stands is basically a white middle-class movement." a term came into use to identify these exclusions, this concept of u.s. third world feminism, by which minority women, including black and indigenous women, critiqued what they understood as the privilege of white feminists. they highlighted inequality and
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oppression that they understood as the result of colonization and its residual and still persistent effects in the u.s. the impact of this engagement with gender and racial issues certainly had a remarkable -- it was evidenced in the cultural production of the period. last time when we met, we discussed the complexities and problematics of this exhibition that took place. you see the cover, harlem on my mind. can you address what were the problematics of this exhibit? what was challenging? why did african-americans oppose this exhibition?
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>> the exhibition was a curated exhibit of photographs. photographs were not considered an art form in the same way that paintings and sculpture word. in a way, it essentially negated the arts african americans had contributed to at that time. there are more complex issues there as well. >> you are right. the curators excluded the cultural production of african-americans in the visual arts focused on photographic interpretations of lives in harlem and activists and artists felt this was a slight, that they dismissed the remarkable achievements of african-americans. you know that they picketed.
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the conditions continued to exclude african-american artists, and principally, african-american women artists. activists adopted these practices of protest against mainstream institutions. they continued to object to the practices of exclusion and marginalization. i am showing you faith ringgold and her daughter, who are protesting the exclusion of african-american at the museum in 1971. we will come back to faith ringgold through our conversations today. i'm showing you a contemporary publication that addresses some of these concerns of marginalization and exclusion in the part of women artists. as you see, the document reads
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"attention women artists and feminists, now is the time to end discrimination against women in museums, galleries, and art schools, and advise women to join the arts to rally and celebrate the accomplishments of women artists. help make public our demand to six new york museums for a massive show of women artists." what we see in this period is not only a concerted effort to contest racial marginalizations, but also cultural marginalization. you are already familiar with that with our reading on harlem in my mind.
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african-american artists in general contested the widespread racial and institutional prejudice that relegated women essentially to the status of second class as citizens. they activated complex networks of grassroots organizations to motivate change. i'm showing you the same poster here. on your right, a more recent work by faith ringgold. it is dated to 2007. she references her experience while picketing at the museum. she uses one of the most visible, but also most highly contested symbols of the
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confederacy, a variation of the confederate flag. she alters the iconography where the word hate is seen. on the peripheral, she said "i was passing out flyers," referring specifically to her activism in the 1970's. "i was passing out flyers about witness discrimination against black artists when a white man told his daughter not she uses thed pejorative term that the father used to to describe her. she relates she was absolutely astonished at the degree of hate that a parent could disseminate to a young child. i'm putting these frameworks, because these are the ideas i will pursue throughout my paper today.
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the cultural landscape has certainly changed dramatically. much of my presentation today has benefited tremendously from recent scholarship. in the last few years, there's been a remarkable shift in institutional attention to the accomplishment of african-american artists both in the historical context and in our own time. i have cited some of the exhibitions, some of which are still ongoing, that have reframed the dialogue and pointed our attention to the remarkable accomplishments of african-american artists in the civil rights era. they have also engaged us in a remarkable research that helps contextualize the production of these artists within a broader
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cultural, social and political , context. this is what i will be doing in my presentation today. unlike much of what we have seen so far, where most african-american artists tended to depend on figuration, on a clear narrative, reflecting visible reality, many of the artists we will see today engage in comparable forms of social critique. they very often upset the structures and practices of production that had been historically valued, particularly in the context of academic art. i encourage you to think of the fact that much of the art we will see critiques the
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separation between what we identify as high art, and that would be what? academic art, but in terms of materials? painting, sculptures. the kind of art that was collected in museums. they dismantle the hierarchies between what was high art and what was considered low art. that would be objects of material culture. i am going to talk about the reasons for which they gravitated to low art, and the political and social motivations there. we already identified critiques of institutional practices that african-american artists felt defined, but also perpetuated ideological frameworks of
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oppression and suppression. museums obviously were among those structures. they also contested capitalist practices that prevented minority populations from accessing the networks of cultur al production and exchange. much of the art we will see today is not easily accessible. you might recognize some of the iconography, its component parts, but the meaning is not always easily accessible. that is why i'm suggesting that in the 1960s and 1970s, we are moving to a cerebral kind of art, conceptual art, you have to think about it, that denies an easy and immediate explanation, -- engagement or transparent
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social critique. many of the artists we will talk about put their art in the service of racial struggle. i'm showing you in this case 2 posters that faith ringgold created in the service of the black panthers. she avoided completely the usage of the color white because she wanted to make a statement. she adopted the colors of pan africanism that we are going to encounter in many works. she also tells us that the black panthers for whom these posters were created, were critical of her work because they did not find it aggressive enough, assertive enough.
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ringgold and others critiqued institutional violence aiming to create the kind of new historical documents, creating historical works of art that however did not submit to the expectations or requirements of what we consider historical art. it depends on a narrative, dramatic effect. very often, her works depend on intellectual engagement with the audience that depends on text. in this particular case, i'm showing you the u.s. of attica in which she recovers the map of the u.s., fragments it, then populates it with very detailed
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narratives about the racist violence against minority populations that took place in the u.s., but which was ongoing in the 1960's and 1970's. the term united states of attica refers to the writing in attica prison in new york when inmates sought improvement of living conditions and political rights. not having the demands fully satisfied, they encountered confrontation. that led to a remarkable number of deaths. this was an event that was recorded in the film and dominated the cultural landscape as a demonstration of racial and
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racist violence in the u.s. although my focus today will be primarily on african-american women artists, one has to consider the responses of contemporary white artists. i'm showing you andy warhol on the left, who i imagine you know as an artist who at the time was invested in critiquing consumerism and capitalism, but he also responded to racial violence. i'm showing you his race riots in the 1960's. duane hanson, this extraordinary provocative and confrontational work in 1967, when a policeman is beating down a rioter.
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african-americans organized not only politically, but generated new cultural spaces in which to promote not only their art, but also their politics. considering that the majority of all american museums excluded or marginalized their participation. they were motivated to counteract these practices of exclusion and marginalization by creating their own spaces. i already talked about spiral last time, but i am reminding you of that because i will talk about the only woman artist who was included in the initiative. we already talked about the black arts movement.
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i will return to the cobra initiative. i will focus on the production of women artists. we have already identified the significance of the opening of the studio in 1968 and the black emergency cultural coalition that also picketed the exclusion of african-americans from american museums. many of these organizations were grassroots organizations. i'm showing you in this case a group of african-american women artists, including faith
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ringgold here. a group of women artists who created a collective that they called wwa, where we are at. where we at. identifying essentially the fact that they organized in the domestic spaces. they got together, they organized exhibitions, they organized panel discussions, seminars, and art workshops. essentially, they motivated change in the spaces that very often they were suppressed by -- sequestered to by contemporary social ideologies. african-american men on occasion
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accommodated and invited the participation of women artists. i'm showing you afri-cobra, this quite wonderful and very engaging name. the african commune of bad relevant artists. i can't imagine this is not going to stay in your mind. that included women artists who were going to revitalize and in some ways revolutionize the arts by collapsing the boundaries between material utilitarian art and very deliberate, political ideologies. i'll show you the cover of the exhibition catalog for the group in 1973. one of the members, jeff
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donaldson, published what he called the africobra manifesto. i quoted from it because it's important in the ways you redefined the aims of the group. i would like you to engage and remember the focus of the group. he said we are a family of image makers, and each member of the family is free to relate to and express our laws in her or his individual ways. subjectivity, individualism, the freedom to follow one's own aesthetic were fundamental to the objectives of the afri-cobra . then he said dig the diversity in unity.
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this is a group that cultivated diversity and individuality. then he defined some of the broader objectives of the group. the group often dealt with images that encouraged them to contemplate the past. they also put forward images that dealt with a contemporary experience and activated forward action. there were particular aesthetics in the afri-cobra group. you will see them in a few minutes. i think they are so fascinating. they are completely unconventional in the way of stylistic characteristics, one of the most important components was expressive awesomeness.
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it is a wonderful way, the feeling one experiences in african art and life in the u.s. , this responsibility in debt to ancestral memories and ancestral aesthetics, which we are going to see in a second. symmetry in rhythm, rhythmical components that have to do with very active alternations of colors. you are going to see that. variations between the abstracts and the concrete. then this concept of organic looking. they wanted to work to look like the creator made it through us. not something that is bound by institutional restrictions, but something that is organic. shine, we want the things to
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shine, have their rich laughter. having the rich luster of a just washed fro, of spit shined shoes. think of the visual. of deashened elbows, knees, and noses. they want color, color that is free of rules and regulations, contesting the limitations of institutional practices. color that is expressively awesome. they took this ideology, they took this aesthetic to the street. the purpose of much of the art was to engage the community. i'm showing you in this case, and my apologies on my pc, i
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will read portions of it. i'm showing you two pages from "ebony" magazine in 1967. december of 1967. the feature focused on this very large scale, communal project, called "the wall of respect" that the group created in a southside chicago ghetto. this was the appearance of the wall prior to the undertaking. this was a collective enterprise, men and women parceled out their responsibilities. they chose who they were going to depict on the walls, then completely transformed the neighborhood with the objective
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to paint images of black dignity in the heart of the city ghetto. as donaldson said in his manifesto, the images are designed for this kind of communal appeal and detailing the section of the text where the arrow is, because the black artists and the creative potential of the black experience has been consciously excluded, the same idea that we had been pursuing had been consciously excluded from the total spectrum of american arts. we want to provide a new context for the black artist in which he can work out his problems and pursue his aims unhampered and
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uninhibited by the prejudices and dictates of the mainstream. on the detail here, you see the artists working on the mural. this became the sight for communal gatherings. poets would recite poetry. the idea was to bring the community together through the arts and in effect -- and in and racial pride uplift. unfortunately, the wall no longer survives. the project began in 1967. it was continued until 1968. it was destroyed in 1971 when the building burned down. the wall was essentially the more modern counterpoint to
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charles white's mural that we saw at hampton university. where he did what? what'd did charles might aim to do at the mural at hampton university? address what sort of exclusions? whom did he include in them rio -- in the mural? [indiscernible] >> he looked at major figures from the 19th century who were not included in textbooks, narratives of american history, and he celebrated them on a very large scale.
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major truth -- major figures, sojourner truth, frederick douglass. this mural celebrated contemporary culture. among those represented, you have malcolm x and muhammad ali, w.e.b. dubois. at the same time, contemporary entertainers such as sarah von, nina simone. the idea was to cultivate pride in contemporary culture. indeed, the cultivation of racial pride was central to the undertakings of afri-cobra. remember, the idea was to use the kind of colors that had shined, that were engaging, the syncopated rhythmical patterns. i'm showing you this particular
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case where he intertwines almost pixilated depictions of three women with textual narratives that reinforces the point. around them, this idea that afros are beautiful, taken virtually from the manifesto. the fact that black women are beautiful. you see the drawings for this work that perhaps make it more easy to see. and a directive to african-american women to let their hair grow natural. not subscribe to the kind of enforced and perpetuated ideals
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of black femininity and beauty, but oppose them and cultivate an aesthetic and outlook that was distinctly african-american. we have seen this in contemporary magazines. on the one hand, i'm showing you an issue of "ebony" from august of 1967 that focuses on the plights of black youth in the urban environment. that is contrasted a few months later by images of successful african-american actors, and the directive again that natural hair is the new symbol of race pride. members of afri-cobra literally
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collapsed the boundaries between the museum and the everyday experience. they collapsed the boundaries between artworks that are intended purely as aesthetic experiences and artworks that convey message in an everyday context. nowhere is this more visible than in the production of women in afri-cobra. art literally moved from the isolated and elevated and restrictive environment of the museum to the street and assumed immediate relevancy for its audience. they didn't have to go to the museum to become aware of the black aesthetic. it circulated all around you. i'm showing here on your left
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this brilliant adaptation of political narrative in j jarrell's revolutionary suit of 1969. on your right, her work called "ebony family" of 1968. she was the granddaughter of a tailor, she had her own clothing shop in hyde park. in her past, politically relevant works, she identified the influence of her attendance at bowling green university, where students were unionizing at the time. she also remarked it was her awareness of decolonization in africa that prompted her to consider the implications of
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racial politics for her art. in the revolutionary suit, she combines what appears to be a traditional 1960s tweed suit with a framed edge that appears to imitate a bandolier, or potential coloring crayons. that would become the hallmark of the revolutionary modern black woman in the period. i'm showing you jeff donaldson's wife in 1969. you see the women are depicted with this bullet buckle around their waist.
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it attracted such considerable traction. vertamae grosvenor is depicted with it on "jet" magazine. you see the title sparks white faction craze. women artists embraced this. they interpreted it in their works very much as a reflection of contemporary political concern but also contemporary realities. you see the work that depicts angela davis. she is draped with comparable accessory. i'm going to concentrate on this work called "revolutionary
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sister" of 1971. who said that in the 1960s and 1970s, we didn't have many women warriors? this is a black woman. she says we didn't have any black women warriors that at least we were aware of. so i created my own. what do you think the inspiration is for this depiction? what does it remind you of? [indiscernible] >> not a white woman, but rather a black woman. she is dressed in a very fashionable manner, has the colors that identified with the
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africanist ideal. on her crown, she has the the -- she has on the spokes, the ends of flagpoles. she created a very different narratives. she says the shape was inspired on her thoughts of the statue of liberty. she represents freedom for so many, but what about us? did the statue of freedom carry the same symbolical or political connotations for african-american women? my thoughts were she says that warriors are as hard as nails. i used a lot of the liberation colors, red for the blood we have shared, green for the motherland, and black for the people.
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the bullet belt she says validated her warrior status. however, the fashionable accessory was very awkwardly divorced from its political implications once it was appropriated among women artists. i'm showing you in this case two pages from "jet" magazine in 1971. on the left, you see a white socialite posing very snazzily with the belt around her, even her whole outfit seems to embrace the kind of revolutionary outlook. she is interestingly enough depicted in front of an american flag. the narrative says the two white capitalists are uniquely situated to capitalize on the fad.
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here are the artists who are contesting the obliterating effect of capitalism. they are inventing these new political statements, but now their statement is appropriated and kind of obliterated nearly as part of accessorizing. -- obliterated merely as part of accessorizing. she was the wife of the president of alexander's department store. she claimed she started the trend in london and arranged it to import it for her husband's store. what is the reaction to this? here is barbara jones, another member of the afri-cobra, who is wearing the revolutionary suit. clearly opposing and contesting
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this elimination of political revolutionary context. she says, "we were saying something when we used the belt. we are involved in a real revolution." further below, once critics used the white mimicry, the white imitation, as a form of transvestism. with political and social overtones and a number of nuances of the black rebellion. i said a number of times that these artists did not observe the expectations, did not subscribe to the expectations of what art was. women artists capitalized on what historically has been considered the material preoccupations of women.
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textiles, clothing traditionally has been a domestic activity reserved primarily for women. now, they invested with political, social, and racial significance. i'm showing you another very important statement on the part of j. jarrell, her urban lawsuit of 1969 that refuses feminine skills with explicit political commentary. she looked at contemporary graffiti. as you see, she creates almost kind of brick like components. she applies acrylic lettering. in the detail i will show you, she makes very explicit political statements by encouraging voting democratic.
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at the same time, she celebrates black culture. and on the opposite side, i'm showing you jarrell wearing the suit and posing with her children. she said, "i made the suit in 1969 because one of the tenants in afri-cobra was to reinvent yourself, reinvent how you were, reinvent your whole manner so you have a fresh voice. i was inventing my fabric." in that respect, she is following the tenants of artistic production. she is completely innovative. she does not follow anything that is already established.
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"i put together all the components in large patches of rectangular shapes and squares. i saw the walls as communing as -- as community message boards. at the same time, this is how the suits functioned." she notes that, "when i wore it on a visit to the department store in boston where i worked from 1957 to 1959, my supervisor was thrilled with my powerful suit of graffitied messages from the hood. when our visit was over, i could hear it in their voices and see it in their eyes, respect, real respect and pride. "
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please bear in mind that the wearer is activating the suit. she has to wear the suit. as she is circulating in the urban space, she is proliferating the message. unlike the static environment of the museum, where the visitor has to exercise agency to go to it, jarrell is wearing the suit and she is generating this pride as she is encountering people she knows. you see in this case the detailing -- detailed messaging, vote democratic, then referencing contemporary entertainment events and using the language of the time, such as miss attitude, that made these very particular to time and space.
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barbara jones argue was a chicago-based artist. she was very much a central figure in the black arts movement. she was one of the founding members of afri-cobra. throughout her career, she worked in painting, printmaking, film, but she was also very much invested in education. much of her art capitalized on the tenant of afri-cobra that their art should have communal relevance. it should not be maintained within a closed network of artists, but should proliferate, it would expand the message. expand the message to a broader audience.
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i'm showing you in this case, her poster called "unite" from 1971. the reason she focused on posters was because of their democratic nature. we have already talked about the function of prints in advancing and popularizing a message because they are relatively cheaper, they are produced in multiples, and everyone can have access to them. she said everyone who wanted one could have one. "after i went to afri-cobra, i wanted to give a message in terms of action, direction, and ideas to think about for my people as the viewer. we wanted to make positive images in making statements and motivating people with particular thoughts, attitudes, and postures. we were working on a kind of manifesto." again, this kind of deliberate
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outlook through artistic production. in this particular case, she relates that she adopted this very common graphic element of a raised arm that tommy smith and john carlos had employed in 1968 at the olympics in mexico. although she had not been present at the olympics, she visited elizabeth catholic, who of course was at the time working on a highly abstracted form of revolutionary gestures that had become very much part of the political identity of the
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black panthers, but also infiltrated the mainstream. i'm showing you elizabeth catlett's sculpture. the samessentially sculpture. side, you have the clenched fist. on the backside, you have this abstracted mask-like form of black individuals. this return to the past, which returned to african sources was , something we had seen over and over again from the 1990's to the harlem renaissance and beyond. this continued to be a constant reference for contemporary artists. it indeed became a call to cultivate racial pride. i'm showing you in this case barbara jones-hogu's relate to your heritage, create this very
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dynamic, interactive profile. brilliantly colored. as you see, relate, relate, and at the bottom, relate to your heritage. the call to activate a very deliberate, intentional, and problematic engagement with the black ancestral legacy, something that we had already seen in the case of lawyers miller jones. i hope you realize the stylistic differences. descriptive,more the colors are much more limited, whereas this almost psychedelic colors, these brilliant colors that afri-cobra encouraged.
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this reiterated the idea that black is beautiful. it became both an aesthetical and political call. i'm showing you elizabeth catlett's "black is beautiful." it extols the physiognomy's that relate clearly african-american identities and relate the perspective specifically with the politics of the black panthers. black is beautiful became a broader cultural attitude. i'm showing you yet another cover from "life" magazine where black models take center stage. once you go in the interior, the caption reads, "you see before
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you what may well be the most persuasive demonstration of successful black power ever assembled. this spectacular breakthrough part of the new emphasis on black pride and equality was brought about by advertisers and fashion arbiters who are finding that black is not only beautiful, but good business." the political realities obviously, the racial realities, very often contradicted the optimism that we see in the entry. african american women artists exposed those realities, critiqued those realities, tried
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to contest the realities, tried to energize change. catlett we have seen when we analyzed the rpin prints she was at the forefront , of the activism. i'm showing you her print "malcolm x speaks for us," where the profile of the civil rights leader is addressing a diverse audience of distinctly black figures, including on the upper portion this autobiographical component in catlett's work "i am the negro woman," part of a larger series. as you know from our conversation already, she had become a mexican citizen in 1962. although she enjoyed a one-woman
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show in 1971 in harlem, she wasn't able to attend because her citizenship had been revoked. nevertheless, while in mexico, she followed the political realities in the u.s. her popularity increased because work was presented in many museums. and her work was clearly responsive to the expanding cultural anxieties, and the racial violence that would escalate in the 1960's and 1970's. i'm showing you again this print where, of course, the presence of the truncated feet that hold
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the news speak to the graphic violence that the men had endured. she reprises this theme, as you see, much more explicitly in 1970, with her bust called target, where a target is literally placed across the face completelyman , foregrounding and exposing the prevalent violence that african-americans faced. her perspective was to address inequities, victimization, oppression and suppression, both in the united states but also in mexico where she spent the majority of her career, and then
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you see here in 1970, ebony devoted a two-page spread to her work, where the sculpture is shown with one of her works that you're going to see in a few minutes. she was identified as a militant sculptor. she embraced the militancy that was, of course, prevalent for the times and also as a militant who was very deeply involved in the worldwide drive for national liberation. and she noted that artists could no longer take advantage -- this is the passage here. " i don't thinkion
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that artists can remain aloof from this movement. i don't think we can still keep going to paris and rome, to see what the last word is in art and come back to our desperate nations and live in intellectual isolation from what's going on in our countries and our ghettos . so her art is very much informed by her politics. she truly advocates, and that's the definition of her, is a militant sculptor, she advocates for art that is socially relevant, that serves the revolution but also that motivates change. here is a sculpture that she was standing close to in the journal article. here is a relatively modern retake of that.
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she died only a couple years ago. and i'm showing you the sculpture because her art combines very caustic, very intense and very direct political commentary, in this particular case obviously the figure is raising her fist up in the air, contains blackness. the forum is literally covered in black. and the title makes undeniable -- it makes undeniable obviously the political intentionality of her work. and much of her work in the 1960's and 1970's demonstrates this exquisite aesthetic beauty.
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the forms are remarkable in their elegance, but at the same time, absolutely laden with political symbolism, in this , -- in this case, black flag of 1970 was recently acquired by hampton university and a political prisoner of 1971, where the central portion, again, of the woman's body is demarcated by the colors of the black flag. african-american women artists very often in the 1960's and 1970's capitalized on the familiarity and currency of symbols and icons to encourage legibility of their work, to
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encourage the audience to engage with the work. but at the same time, probed the same kind of political and social exclusions that were present in the works of others. i'm showing you in this case, ringle's work, u.s. postage, which is part of a large series of works. as you see, the american people series. this is number 19. and the postage commemorates, and she said, the advent of black power. the first african-american honored in an american stamp was booker t. washington, the 10
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stamp in 1940. then harriet tubman. in 1963, a black graphic designer, george aldon, created this commemorative stamp for the emancipation proclamation. and i'm showing you this because kennedy literally signed off on it, and this is part of the postage museum in d.c. can you read this image? what do you have obviously in the successions of rows? you have -- you have black power.
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black power. u.s. postage. >> air mail. >> airmail. you are absolutely right. ten cents. pardon me? >> 1967? >> 1967. where is white power? >> up and down. >> right. embedded you have -- you see? the w, the h, the i, t, e, white power. what is the comment that she's provoking here? what do you think she might be trying to tell us? when you look at this work, what is the color that you read most evidently?
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you read black. but in terms of the depictions -- white. right. the majority of those represented are white. so she uses -- remember my earlier point that this is the kind of cerebral art, right? it's not descriptive. it's not narrative. but it depends on symbols to communicate social and political truths. so she's using the stamp, which, of course, is the most evident manifestation of federal recognition, right? whoever goes on the stamp, their image circulates and indicates that we value obviously the historical significance here. so she's using the stamp. and she alerts us to the fact that white power literally dominates. you see, pictorially, there is
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so much more white in the construction of this image. and it's a conflict between black and white that she implies here. the conflict would become real. the 1960's were a period of remarkable, remarkable and very violent confrontations, in this series from 1963 to 1967, she visited a number of the political and social confrontations, and in this particular case, and this is a very large-scale work as you see, she depicts an imaginary -- this is not an actual event that she's describing, a confrontation between african-americans and white
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americans, against a gray background, a gray grid that is meant to identify the urban environment. as you see, they are dressed in a very mundane manner. and they inflict extraordinary, very graphic violence. the one against the other. white against white, black against black. the figures tumble in a very dynamic format. a number of them as you see create very, very dynamic triangular components. as describes this work super-realism effect. she says the idea was to make a statement in my art about the
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civil rights movement and what was happening to black people at that time, to make it super real. because she said when she would watch tv, there was a kind of sanitizing effect. you couldn't quite engage with the reality, the bloodshed that defined the confrontations. and it has an almost filmy quality, appears almost as if it's a film strip. the fact, of course, that it's a very large-scale work, it creates an environmental effect. it's almost as if you are in the same space as these figures. ally, it recollects picasso, because that was about a civil war conflict. this was a period of remarkable, internal conflicts in the united states.
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and she certainly is alert and aware of this kind of precedent. referencing the graphic violence that was depicted and which she had experienced in harlem in in 1967, sheewark said that it was physically painful to paint the blood. it hurt me, she said, to do so. but it had to be done. after the rise, she said, you'd be walking down the streets and see blood on the pavement. that was real to me. we all bleed. so it's a personal -- it's an autobiographical statement. but at the same time, it's a collective statement about the violence that overwhelmed
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american cities in the period. these were very challenging paintings. and ringle tried to join the spiral, the progressive group of artists, as i said, amos, whose work we are going to see, was the only woman artist. and bearden, who was one of the founders and a very influential artist, provided encouragement as to how she can develop her aesthetic. but he also said let me hope that your paintings will eventually find their own friends, right? these are very problematic paintings that cannot be accommodated easily in the museum context. and he said, most often this is a long process. and he encouraged her, don't despair. just continue to work hard.
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and those of us wo were present when faith ringle came at the college a few years ago, she related the same experience that she would roll up her canvases and she would literally take them to galleries hoping to persuade them to exhibit her work. but these were very graphic, very problematic images. they were not invented. they were very much reflective of contemporary realities and the art world obviously was not accommodating to this kind of super realism, because this was the experience in the streets. increasingly in the 1960's and the 1970's, artists and activists literally exposed the irony of the american judicial system that often victimized those that it was supposed to protect.
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african-american artists and american artists in general took up their causes by inflicting alternative interpretations onto perhaps the most meaningful symbol of american nationalism, americanist, the american flag. anti-war, vietnam demonstrators burned the flag in central park. i'm showing you, on your right, stanley foreman. this is a very iconic image from boston. boston at the time was undergoing busing in order to enhance diversity, integrate its schools and bostonians were
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opposing busing. and in this particular case, you see -- a confrontation between a teenager and an african-american civil rights lawyer, and the man is swinging the flag. but in the picture, it appears literally as if he's trying to impale him. americans begun to violate openly the 1942 official flag code as to how to treat the american flag. they burned it. they flew it inverted, prompting congress to pass laws in 1968, making it essentially a federal crime to, quote, knowingly cast contempt upon any flag of the
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united states by publicly mutilating, defacing, defiling, burning or trampling upon it and almost promptly, american artists went ahead to do many of those things. and those laws remained essentially in effect until 1989 when the united states supreme court struck them as unconstitutional, and essentially a violation of free amendment to free speech. ringle was one of the first african-american artists to contest the sanctity of the flag, and along with three other artists, they put together the people's flag show, at jackson memorial church on washington square park in new york city.
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and the show was only open for a few days, because faith ringle, john hendricks and john toke were arrested shortly thereafter, charged with the desecration of the american flag. and you will see why. her daughter created the lettering on the announcement for the show that you see here. and in the lettering that essentially takes -- makes up for the component of the stripes, the narrative reads, the american people are the only people who can interpret the american flag, a flag which does not belong to the people to do what -- to do with as they see fit. should be burned and forgotten. artists, workers, students, women, third world peoples, you are oppressed.
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what does this flag mean to you? join the people's answer to the repressive u.s. government and state laws restricting the use and display of the flag. this was a call to action centered essentially on undermining the integrity and the authority of the flag. and we've already seen some of those provocations in the work of african-american male artists. we discussed last week david hammonds, boy with a flag, of 1968. can you address what he's trying to convey in a work such as this?
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>> he was partly addressing the contested symbol of the american flag at the time that you just spoke to. and also, the symbol of american men -- which was a racist way to undermine the authority of black men. >> you're actually right. he contests the authority of the flag by alerting us to the perpetuity of these distinctly, essentially offensive terms to define black manhood. and we also talked, of course, about the flag functioning as a barrier, bifurcating the identity of the black man, reinforcing our understanding of the dualism of black identities and also the sense of invisibility. and you see, a year later, benny andrews, literally battles, physically seems to confront the
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american flag. david hammonds would recolor it in the colors of black nationalism. so a number of artists, both male and female, black and white, were undermining the stability of the flag during the period. ringle reinforced the fact that the flag was no longer a symbol of protection, no longer guaranteed civil liberties, but rather, very often violence, aggression, was perpetuated in the name of the flag. one of the most problematic, most provocative, most aggressive and perhaps most
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truthful statements on the part of the artist commenting on con -- commenting on contemporary conditions was this flag for the moon as part of the black light series that, on first glance, it appears to obviously replicate the iconography of the flag word one realizes that the "die" is embedded within the stars. and then the stripes are reformed with the expletive, often used to marginalize and victimize most importantly african-americans during the period. flag for the moon was a very
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ironic statement. created, of course, in 1969. the conclusion and the realization of the dream, the promise to reach the moon. the apollo mission to the moon was realized. and marked, of course, by the phrase that has become synonomous with american ingenuity and american promise, that's one small step for man, a giant leap for mankind. but obviously for ringle and for many african-americans, this reflection on the presidential aspirations, right? president kennedy had spoken in
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may of 1961, encouraging americans to accelerate their efforts to reach the moon because he said that is a battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny. but ringle exposed obviously that the tyranny was taking place at home. it was part and parcel of the everyday reality. and african-americans were gravely suffering discrimination and violence in the name of the american flag. so it is the legibility of these symbols that made the artworks relevant. they made them recognizable. people engaged with the political potential because they understood what was at stake. they understood what african-americans were commenting on. and the provocations had a
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remarkable effect in advancing the message. it was not only national symbols that were at the forefront of this revisionism but material culture was essentially up for grabs. african-american artists, very much like white artists, tended to capitalize on the meaning of material culture that was so prevalent because, of course, it circulated, right? in prints, in journals, in magazines. and african-american artists took objects of material culture and completely, completely transformed, completely
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challenged their predominant narratives and reframed them in order to engage their audiences with a kind of excluded messages rather than the mainstream messages. and i'm showing you in this case betty sars, aunt jemima, alongside of course the familiar box of the commercial product. and then another investigation of the same theme. betty sarr took broadly material objects. these were not art objects. she did not create them. these were easily available, easily accessible material everyday objects. but she recombined them to make them essentially into political objects. in this particular case, she is
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using this very cheap drink. and she's making it into a bomb. aunt jemima is no longer the accommodating, benign, supportive, docile figure that americans have come to identify, but becomes an explosive, insid explosive,an incendiary device at a time when this figure was very much still in the media, still very much in magazines, the idea of the docile mamie that we looked at in the 19th century continued to circulate among american audiences. and i'm showing you, of course, a still from "gone with the wind" that obviously was in the 1930's, but still in the 1950's these illustrations
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reinforced the stereotype even to the point of the linguistic particularities that were very much part of mainstream material culture. a number of artists battled against the stereotype. in this case, jeff donaldson, aunt jemima and the pillsbury dough boy. it's the humor that engages you. then you begin to realize, well, maybe this is not that funny, right? so in this case, aunt jemima is no longer the rotund, rather accommodating figure that we have come to expect but rather a
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muscular warrior who is combating the pillsbury dough boy. you think of the pillsbury dough boy, what does it signify? pardon me? >> the criminal justice system? >> in this particular case, it stands for the criminal justice system. but the dough boy is about whiteness, right? the pillsbury dough boy represents whiteness, so they're battling against each other. and in the background, there is this kind of reference to the flag. john lockhart no more. aunt jemima is no longer bound to the physical limitations of american capitalism. but she has embraced clearly a very militant attitude. they combined these components in her work.
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along with other artists who literally exposed the mythical stereotyping that continued to fascinate and continued to sell products. that when wee idea think of and jemima, we think of blackness, we think of this has noating figure that identity. it literally brings the figure to light. what did they do it this everlasting symbol of servility? accommodation? she completely rewrote the narrative. this is currently on sale on ebay.
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ebay is thel you source of all wonder. it is currently on sale. it is a completely utilitarian on people'sng walls. they would scribble messages on the notepad. she takes the notepad away and put a photograph of a mamie that is holding a racially mixed child. here, as you see, she is holding a broom, but obviously, it is a functional pencil. she is holding it here as well, but on her other hand, she is holding a gun. this is another warrior. it's a very radical reinterpretation of the form. in the background, you have an older version of the logo for and jemima -- aunt jemima. out of the cotton plantation
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that was the space of her bondage, it was the space of her servility, the space of her subjection, came out a revolutionary figure. you see cotton and of course the colors of the flag. in the midst of what used to be a space of whiteness, now rises the black flag -- i'm sorry, the black place of political activism. completely rewriting the narrative, completely upsetting practices, completely confronting expectations and assumptions. this is the direction that artists who began as activists in the 1970's but continued to exist to our own day engage us with.
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they play with our understanding of the symbols, but they completely confront and upset the stereotype. i'm showing you again sergeant johnson's work that we talk about extensively in the 1930's reflected in the work of choice scott -- joyce scott, who is exposing, very clearly the problematics of the image. this mamie who is holding aloft a white child and her own child is neglected, literally pasted onto her, but not being favored. in this particular case, nanny has nurtured children but with the most offensive terms in the aftermath. stereotyping encourages the engagement with ideas and has remarkable staying power. this is another one of the stereotypes that we talked about over and over again perpetuated not only in works of high art, but very often postcards, objects of material culture and joy scott, in this case shows the african-american man literally being bound to the stereotype, dragged to the earth, not able to liberate himself from its demeaning
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effects. the works are cerebral. they are very provocative. you have to think of the juxtapositions. you have to think of the ways they demand for you to decipher what is there. you have to figure out, what do these things mean? they are not explicit. they are not familiar. you are able to understand the component parts, but the narrative and locations are not always evident -- implications are not always evident, although they depend on very clearly established and powerful stereotypes. i'm sure, in this particular case, and other works of 1971 and 1972, which amplifies many of these material cultural remains in postcards, a musical sheets, that use what is the stereotype that is reinforced here? one is our presentation of
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gluttony, you are absolutely right. how about the banjo playing african-americans? what is the stereotype? entertainers, right. we have seen this over and over again. she collapses these two components in her work that includes a banjo and was in it, you have a photograph of a lynched figure as still a component, then the image of a song though, -- sambo, and entertainer, but on the top, you have, yet again, a silhouette of a menstrual figure that now carries a gun.
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you have to parcel and flesh out the component elements in order to come to the meaning of these works. they confront the stereotypes that were cultivated in the 19th century, but are still very much with us today. amos was the only member of the spiral. she was the only female member of the spiral.
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like some of the other artists that i discussed today, her work, although monumental in scale is quite large. employees distinctly female occupations, textile making, quilting, she works with fabrics. although very often, she adds photographic components and painted components on the works. i will say this work called "measuring." i am proposing this comparison with a race betterment movement. can you address what the potential ideological implications are here? what were the race betterment exhibitions? show less text they took place at the world's fair, which replaces of privileging light accomplishments next to the primitivism of african-americans, essentially. they were exhibitions based on eugenic philosophies on the white establishment, white blood being better than other types of blood.
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show less text you are absolutely right. they establish essentially racial hierarchies based on pseudoscientific evidence. they very often depended on comparisons, measurements, measuring non-western peoples, measuring african-americans against what was the ideal, which of course, they deemed as intellectually superior. in this case, she is confronting these falsehoods of racial superiority based on biology, which of course in 19 century was popularized in print as we have seen this before a number of times where they understood the white, classical statues, greek statues to represent the exalted ideal.
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-- >> they took place at the world's fair, which replaces of privileging light accomplishments next to the primitivism of african-americans, essentially. they were exhibitions based on eugenic philosophies on the white establishment, white blood being better than other types of blood.
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>> you are absolutely right. they establish essentially racial hierarchies based on pseudoscientific evidence. they very often depended on comparisons, measurements, measuring non-western peoples, measuring african-americans against what was the ideal, which of course, they deemed as
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intellectually superior. in this case, she is confronting these falsehoods of racial superiority based on biology, which of course in 19 century was popularized in print as we have seen this before a number of times where they understood the white, classical statues, greek statues to represent the exalted ideal. and then, in descending order, the furthest away he were from that ideal, the lowest you are on the hierarchy of scale. on that assumption, they privileged and promoted classical culture and people who embraced that culture and victimized all other non-western peoples and marking them as inferior to the point, as you suggested, that very often they exhibited them at world's fairs. the venus is the most evident manifestation of this exploitation of the blackbody for pseudoscientific evidence. we are going to explore this much more in our meeting next
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week with the work of contemporary women artists. this idea of measuring black bodies or minority bodies against the white ideal was a prevalent and very, very well-established mode of reinforcing racial hierarchies. in this particular case, the artist capitalizes on this idea. this is a textile, as you see there, painted components. here is the alter ego of the artist, who is completely disembodied, just the partial iced black female body is visible. it elaborates on the idea of the hypersexual blackbody that is understood merely in terms of its sexual identity, rather than its totality, individual totality.
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this stands for the artist, who stands alongside a black figure as well as a variation of this classical greek statue of the boy. and on either side of it, you have truncated legs, the lower portions of the legs, some of which are black, others are white. there are portions of it where you can actually see white hands. she is making evident this process by which the blackbody never quite measures up. there are a number of tape measure components throughout. she is using a number of references to 19th-century artists that clearly indicate racial hierarchies. they continue obviously to proliferate into the 20th century. as an artist, as a female artist, she was never quite equal. in this particular case, again, the artist is foregrounded
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against the american flag, but she appears to be doing what? following, right -- falling, right? she appears against this almost cosmic space. she is not grounded. she is looking up. so that title and the work seemed to contradict one another because obviously, she is looking up, not across at us, but clearly indicating a distinct hierarchy. the memories of the cabin in the background are referential. she was from atlanta. she was from the south. referencing her experience with the spiral movement, she expressed her concern. she said she wondered when she
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got to the spiral, how come other accomplished women artists were not there? women such as --. she said i was probably less threatening to their egos as i was not yet of much consequence. in her works, amos identifies not only the racial disparities, but very clearly, the gender disparities, the fact that women artists, although they clearly participated in the same political messaging, they contested the status quo in equal terms to their male counterparts. very often, their voices were excluded and marginalized because in the artistic establishment, very often, the gendered hierarchies persistent.
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this is something that i will continue to explore in our upcoming session as we move into the 1980's and 1990's. with works such as this. i am showing you her work suit in which she literally dons a male identity to combat the historical and ongoing marginalization of women artists. she is looking down at her white subject. on her palette, there is an x to imply her erasure, to imply that women artists, in particular
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black women artists were very much excluded from the mainstream establishment. on the opposite side, she is toting her wares trying to negotiate the tightrope of her existence as a black artist. i hope my presentation today alerted you to the multifaceted and multilayered challenges that african-american women artists encountered, but also the degree to which very intentionally deliberately, in very innovative ways, they collapsed the boundaries between the expectations of the establishment, the expectations of high art and the modes that traditionally women have employed to create art that was politically relevant, that aimed
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to motivate, change and in many ways was revolutionary. i will see you all next week. thank you. >> you are watching "american history tv." every weekend on c-span3 p to join the conversation, like us on facebook. q&a, supremen court reviewer joan talks about of latest book, a biography chief justice john roberts. >> whatever, however john
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roberts votes now, that anthony kennedy is gone, he is going to determine the law of the land. liberals want him to inch over a little bit. but conservatives are trying to hold him back. where he always was. meanwhile, you have a chief justice declaring there is no such thing as an obama judge, a trump judge, a bush judge, he wants to project a bench that is not political when they all have their agendas of sorts. >> tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span's q&a. >> get to know the freshman members of the 115th congress monday on washington journal. learn more about the most diverse group of lawmakers in history. authentic, i will not be a polished politician.
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>> i'm just a small-town lawyer. >> national guard, served in afghanistan. >> in the donald's franchisee for 32 years. >> i have a fascination with the idea of finding answers to questions. >> i had been in the position for all the rest of my life. >> my dad is a lifelong republican who never voted for a democrat. he voted for me. live monday morning. join the discussion. >> western carolina university professor benjamin francis talks about the spanish-speaking vote in the 20 century. he describes a group with distinct interests and voting patterns and outlines how the republican party sentiment -- democrat parties reported in different constituencies. this 15 minute interview was recorded at the annual american historical association meeting.

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