Marilyn M. Fosque
Seminar to Art 397.002
Most African American artist work during the18th and 19th century predominately reflected Eurocentric traditions. By the early 20th century however, a unique African American aesthetic came into being, merging African traditions of design with elements of black life. The artistic development evolved further during the 1960’s and 1970’s when art was introduce to ironic imagery, filled afrocentric colors, designs and encouraged representations of black America’s struggle. While this tradition survives today, many African American artists are equally committed to searching out the sheer beauty and power of art for its own sake.
Romare Bearden is among the greatest artists of his generation. His complex and powerful works ...view middle of the document...
Therefore, he created art inspired by African American traditions.
Bearden’s artistic work with fragments of the past brought them into the present. Inn the South, during the early 20th century, there was a great migration with people leaving the South and moving North, especially towards New York City, so Harlem at that time was still very much Southern. Bearden took snippets of Harlem’s everyday life and through his artistic work; he connected them with vivid images of the American South. Bearden's collages bring to mind the pleasing graphic unity of patchwork quilts, into which slaves once sewed coded messages about the Underground Railroad. Meaning literally came out of the seams. Bearden's dense, multilayered art nodded toward codes and complexity. They were cut, etched and painted with photos from popular magazines recalling rural Southern shanties papered with newspaper clippings. One of my favorite works that I saw by Bearden called, Untitled (Street Scene), showed a Harlem street scene. I thought all of these images of Harlem life, and in the middle there's a guy in overalls, which you would look at it, and you would think, that did not belong, but at that time, it certainly did belong. What first seems as an explosion of images quickly settles into a meaningful & peaceful atmosphere. Bearden's faces catch your eye and will not let you look away. Each is a composite of perhaps two, three or even half a dozen facial fragments.
Through art and intellect Bearden and other African Americans have challenged society to face the contradiction between ideals of equality and the practice of prejudice. Art and intellect have served African Americans well, as they have expressed a distinctive sense of beauty, rendered powerful performances, and established meaningful spiritual connections with their creator. Though unique to African Americans, these cultural expressions have enjoyed a universal appeal.