black british artists cover

A SELECTION OF SHELF-WORTHY, COFFEE TABLE-READY books and catalogs published recently that explore black art and artists

black in western art - vol 5, part 2“The Image of the Black in Western Art, Volume V: The Twentieth Century, Part 2: The Rise of Black Artists” edited by David Bindman and Henry Louis Gates Jr. (Belknap Press, 368 pages)
Since 2010, Harvard University Press and the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute have been republishing hefty volumes exploring early images of black people in Western art. Based on an archive founded by French-American arts patron Dominique de Menil in the 1960s, the series begins with the pharaohs and continues through the fall of the Roman Empire and the early Christian era, to the Age of Discovery and the Age of Abolition. Previous installments focused on how others depicted blacks who historically lacked the agency to create their own images. New volumes examine 20th century representations of blacks in the United States, Europe and the Caribbean by black artists. Writings by David Bindman, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Richard J. Powell, Deborah Willis, Ruth Fine and others, consider black activism, black identity and post-black art. Major topics addressed include “urban migration within the United States to globalization, to Négritude and cultural hybridity, to the modern black artist’s relationship with European aesthetic traditions and experimentation with new technologies and media.”

DISCUSSION The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., has been hosting panel discussions about the “Image of the Black in Western Art” series and will hold another about the new volume on Nov. 16.

night and day catalog“Chris Ofili: Night and Day” edited by Massimiliano Gioni (Skira Rizzoli, 240 pages)
If you don’t have the opportunity to experience the exhibition in person (which is necessary to discern the artist’s layering techniques and embellishments), the catalog for “Chris Ofilii: Night and Day” is the next best thing. Lavishly illustrated with color plates and installation images, the publication encapsulates the energy, ideas and demonstrable beauty of the wide array of paintings British-born Chris Ofili has created over the past 20 years. Known for his innovative blending of figuration and abstraction, deft use of color, “hybrid juxtaposition of high and low,” and inspired interpretations of folkloric myths and Roman poetry, the survey features six bodies of work including layered paintings from the 1990s, Afromuse watercolor portraits, and new works created since Ofili began living and working in Trinidad. Catalog texts by Massimiliano Gioni (who co-curated the exhibition), Minna Moore Ede, Alicia Ritson, Matthew Ryder, Robert Storr and fellow artists Glenn Ligon and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye provide a comprehensive overview of Ofili’s practice.

EXHIBITION The catalog accompanies “Chris Ofili: Night and Day” currently installed on all three gallery floors at the New Museum in New York through Jan. 25, 2015.

Lavishly illustrated with color plates and installation images, the publication encapsulates the energy, ideas and demonstrable beauty of Chris Ofili’s paintings.

hammons - klein“David Hammons/Yves Klein Yves Klein/David Hammons” edited by Michelle Piranio (Aspen Art Press, 208 pages)
“David Hammons Yves Klein/Yves Klein David Hammons” pairs works by David Hammons, a pioneering conceptual artist based in New York with those of Yves Klein (1928-1962), the late French artist. Hammons’s Basketball and Kool-Aid drawings are featured along with examples from his Body Print series. Created in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the series utilizes grease on paper to produce translucent images that resemble x-rays and recalls Klein’s Anthropometries, in which women’s bodies were used as paint brushes. The presentation looks at two artists who pursue innovative conceptual and aesthetic possibilities with everyday materials. With contributions by Michelle Piranio, Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, Klaus Ottmann, Franklin Sirmans, Philippe Vergne and Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, the catalog “aims not to draw out any notion of influence or direct correlation between these bodies of work, but rather to elucidate a resonance between two artists who both engage transformative processes.”

EXHIBITION The catalog coincides with the “David Hammons/Yves Klein Yves Klein/David Hammons” exhibition currently on view at the Aspen Art Museum through Nov. 30.

black artists in british art“Black Artists in British Art: A History from 1950 to the Present” (International Library of Visual Culture) by Eddie Chambers (I. B. Tauris, 288 pages)
A professor of art history at the University of Texas at Austin, British-born Eddie Chambers specializes in art of the African diaspora, earned his Ph.D. in London and has curated exhibitions in Britain. His important new book “Black Artists in British Art” surveys more than a half century of contributions, bringing welcome attention to the likes of Ronald Moody, Aubrey Williams and Frank Bowling and contemporary figures such as Sonia Boyce, Sokari Douglas Camp, Steve McQueen, Chris Ofili, Yinka Shonibare and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. Among other topics, chapters focus on artists of African, South Asian and Caribbean origin and women artists. Rigorously researched, drawing on rarely accessed archive material, the title presents insightful theories, developments and scholarship that “avoids treating and discussing black artists as isolated practitioners, wholly separate and disconnected from their counterparts.”

“Black Artists in British Art” surveys more than a half century of contributions, bringing welcome attention to the likes of Frank Bowling, Ronald Moody, Sonia Boyce, Steve McQueen and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

basquiat in the bayou“Basquiat and the Bayou” by Franklin Sirmans (Prestel USA, 112 pages)
Franklin Sirmans, artistic director of Prospect 3: New Orleans, curated the biennial’s highly anticipated exhibition, “Basquiat in the Bayou.” The tightly focused presentation of nine paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat explores the “deep psychological and spiritual terrain of the American South.” Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to a Haitian father and Puerto Rican mother, Basquiat had no direct connection to the region, but he invoked its themes in his work. It is this imaginative role that Sirmans probes. The catalog features images of the paintings, including “CPRKR” (1982), “Zydeco” (1984), “King Zulu” (1986) and essays by Sirmans (who also heads the contemporary art department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art), Robert Farris Thompson and Robert O’Meally examine the influence of Southern history and culture on Basquiat’s vision.

EXHIBITION The catalog complements “Basuiat in the Bayou” presented at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art as a part of Prospect 3: New Orleans, which runs through Jan. 23, 2015. CT

TOP IMAGE: Detail of cover art for Black Artists in British Art by Eddie Chamers | GODFRIED DONKOR, “Slave to Champ II (new series),” 2007, (mixed media, collage on paper).