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Born in Houston, Texas, Melvin Edwards studied painting at the University of Southern California (USC), and began sculpting in 1960. Five years later he received his B.F.A. degree from USC. Edwards first gained critical attention with a series of sculptures entitled Lynch Fragments, which he had begun in 1963. By 1997 the series included more than 150 individual works made from both forged and welded parts of knife sheaths, automotive gears, chains, ball bearings, horseshoes, and other metal. The works, each of which is about the size of a human head and hangs on a wall, explore themes of violence and incorporate both American and African symbolism.

In 1967 Edwards moved from California to New Jersey, and his work began to shift away from the manipulated, unpainted metal. A solo exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1968 included geometric shapes painted ...

Article

Aaron Myers

David Hammons was born in Springfield, Illinois. After growing up in the Midwest, he moved to Los Angeles in 1964 to study art. In the 1960s, the progress of the Civil Rights Movement and the inception of the Black Power Movement encouraged artists of African descent to both produce a more racially conscious art and challenge stereotypes of African Americans. After completing his studies in 1972, Hammons began to create prints of his body using margarine or grease. In 1975 he made Harlem his home and started forging sculptures from materials he collected on the street. He executed these assemblages in public spaces using such found objects as spades, chains, bottle caps, deflated inner tubes, barbecue bones, and African American hair in an effort to explore African American identity.

The spade is a reoccurring motif in Hammons s body prints and sculptures He said I remember being called ...

Article

Tim Haslett

visual artist, filmmaker, and cinematographer, was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, and grew up in Clarksdale, Mississippi, the son of Rowena and Arthur Fielder. He studied architecture and film at Howard University from 1978 to 1982. While there, he worked with the filmmaker Haile Gerima, who became a mentor and an influential friend. Jafa's concerns with the centrality of the Middle Passage and slavery in the African Diaspora led him to rethink the political and aesthetic importance of defining “blackness,” and how what Jafa called “primal sites” are crucial to any project concerned with the liberation of people of African descent.

Renowned for his cinematography on Julie Dash's path-breaking film Daughters of the Dust (1992 Jafa put into practice techniques he had long been theorizing Black Visual Intonation was a radical aesthetic notion about the mechanics of filmmaking Jafa won Sundance Film Festival ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

sculptor and installation artist, was born in New York City and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. Little is known of Richards's parents or early education, but he earned a BA from Queens College in 1985 and an MA from New York University in 1992. The following year he was one of twelve studio artists in the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Richards also completed the Artist-in-the-Marketplace Program at the Bronx Museum of the Arts in 1994 and was an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem from 1995 to 1996, at the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Queens, in 1997, and at the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts in Miami, Florida, from 1997 to 1999. Richards won an Art Matters, Inc. grant and was awarded free studio space from 1994 to 1995 by ...

Article

Rebecca Peabody

sculptor and multimedia artist, was born in Los Angeles to Betye and Richard Saar. Alison Saar's education and early artistic exploration were influenced by her richly multicultural background; her mother's ancestry included European, Native American, and African American heritage, while her father was of German and Scottish origin. One of three daughters, Alison Saar was raised in Laurel Canyon, where her parents encouraged her artistic development by taking her to area museums and to noninstitutional works of art, such as Simon Rodia's Watts Towers in south Los Angeles and Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village in Simi Valley. Betye Saar was an active artist who exposed her daughters to printmaking and collage processes, as well as to her belief in the spiritual power of objects. Her father, a conservator and artist, introduced Alison to the composition and aesthetics of the non-Western art he handled through his work.

After high school ...

Article

Jean M. Borgatti

artist. Alison Saar works in diverse media, but she is best known for her sculpture and installations developed through assemblage, using recycled materials. She is one of a generation of artists who were able to take advantage of changing theoretical frameworks in the 1980s, notably multiculturalism and postmodernism, to explore the personal and group experience that, for Saar, necessarily concerned gender and racial stereotypes as well as social identity. Her deceptively simple forms mask a multireferential and sophisticated grasp of art and history.

Alison Saar was born in Los Angeles, a child of the artists Betye and Richard Saar. Her sister Tracye writes that they went to museums and openings the way most children go to baseball games or the zoo; they had open access to an “art table” in their mother's studio, and they spent their holidays making things together. Alison received her bachelor's degree in 1978 ...

Article

Paula Allen

to Mary Mable (Holmes), a homemaker, and Thomas Scott, a cook and chauffeur. His parents taught him rudimentary craft skills—basic carpentry and embroidery. Scott graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1958 and in 1962 from Xavier University of Louisiana, a predominantly black Catholic institution, where he began his formal art training. In 1965 he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Michigan State University in Lansing. Within a year of his graduation, he married Ana Rita Smith and launched his professional career as an artist and teacher at their alma mater—Xavier University.

Scott’s Christian upbringing and formative classical training are extant in the pervasive figurative elements and spiritual imagery that are consummately infused in his work. During the 1960s and 1970s his work was punctuated by religious images such as Lazarus (1967 However his contemporaneous riposte to issues that were at the forefront of black ...

Article

Leora Maltz Leca

curator and artist, was born in the Bronx, New York. His mother and father, both native New Yorkers, were of Caribbean and African American descent respectively. While Wilson identified with the analytical and critical capacities of his civil engineer father, he credited his mother, an art teacher, with nurturing his creativity from a young age. Growing up in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and suburban Westchester County, Wilson attended New York's High School of Music and Art, and frequented the New York City museums throughout his youth. He received a bachelor of fine arts from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Purchase in 1976 though even as an art student he seemed to have been more interested in spatial relationships and performance than in a traditional medium such as painting In his senior year of college he traveled to West Africa spending time in Ghana Nigeria Togo and ...

Article

Born in New York City to parents of mixed descent, Fred Wilson received a bachelor of fine arts degree from the State University of New York at Purchase in 1976. He then worked as an administrator in various New York City museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History. Between 1978 and 1980 he worked as an artist in East Harlem, New York and was funded by the Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA).

Wilson began an association with the Just Above MidTown Gallery in 1981, a space known for its congeniality to African American artists. In 1987 Wilson was the director of the Longwood Art Gallery of the Bronx Council of the Arts, where he curated the show Rooms with a View: The Struggle Between Culture and Content and the Context of Art The show employed three spaces in the gallery One ...