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Rebecca Martin Nagy

Ethiopian artist, was born in Ankober in Shewa Province, Ethiopia. As a young student Afewerk excelled in mathematics and draftsmanship. Recognizing these talents, the government of Emperor Haile Selassie provided a scholarship in 1947 for Afewerk to study mining engineering in England. Showing great promise as a visual artist, Afewerk soon received the emperor’s permission to transfer to London’s Central School of Arts and Crafts. Subsequently, he attended the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. While studying there, he made several trips to the European continent to see and experience works of art firsthand.

Afewerk’s first solo exhibition of paintings in Addis Ababa, held at Municipality Hall in 1954 was not universally well received In particular an abstract interpretation of the Crucifixion inspired by European modernism now in the National Museum of Ethiopia was the subject of debate and controversy in a city with a centuries old ...

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Regenia A. Perry, Camara Dia Holloway, Christina Knight, Dele Jegede, Bridget R. Cooks, and Jenifer P. Borum

Term used to describe art made by Americans of African descent. While the crafts of African Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries continued largely to reflect African artistic traditions (see Africa, §VIII), the earliest fine art made by professional African American artists was in an academic Western style (see fig.).

Article

Robert Fay

Alston was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. As a teenager, he served as the art editor for his high school's annual magazine. Alston earned both his undergraduate and M.A. degrees from Columbia University in New York City. He gained popular recognition for his cover illustrations for the periodicals The New Yorker and Collier's. In the 1930s Alston taught at the Harlem Art Workshop, where he was a proponent of muralism as a black art form, and from 1935 to 1936 Alston directed the Harlem Hospital murals for the Federal Arts Project. In 1950 he became the first African American teacher at the Art Students League in New York. His best-known works are the paintings Family and Walking, which are noted for their figurative content, sculptural form, and brilliant color, and which portray the experiences of African American families in the 1950s and 1960s.

Article

Aaron Myers

Born to a Haitian father and a first-generation Puerto Rican-American mother, Jean-Michel Basquiat grew up in Brooklyn, New York. As a child he created drawings inspired by Comic Books and television cartoons. His mother, who often took him to local museums, nurtured his early interest in art.

In May 1968 Basquiat was hit by a car. He suffered a broken arm and his spleen had to be removed. While he was hospitalized, his mother gave him a copy of Gray's Anatomy, a book that inspired many of his later works as well as the name of the Gray, the noise band he co-founded in 1979. After his parents separated in 1968, Basquiat and his two sisters lived with their father. At the age of seventeen, Basquiat dropped out of high school and lived, by choice, in the streets and with various friends.

Basquiat s career as an ...

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N. Elizabeth Schlatter

painter, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Gerard Basquiat, an accountant originally from Haiti, and Matilde Andradas, of Puerto Rican descent. A precocious draftsman from childhood, Basquiat received little formal artistic training. The last school he attended was the experimental City-as-School program in Manhattan, where he befriended his fellow artist Al Diaz.

Before quitting school altogether in 1978, Basquiat created SAMO (meaning “same old shit”), which was variously a pseudo-religion, a fictional logo, a nom de plume, and a persona. Basquiat and Diaz spray-painted original aphorisms with a copyright symbol next to the word SAMO on walls and in alleys in lower Manhattan. Their mock epigrams and mottoes included “SAMO as an end to mindwash religion, nowhere politics, and bogus philosophy,” “SAMO saves idiots,” and “plush safe he think, SAMO.” Whereas other graffiti artists such as Fab 5 Freddy, Futura 2000 and ...

Article

Amy Helene Kirschke

painter. Basquiat was born to a Puerto Rican mother, Matilde Basquiat, and a Haitian father, Gérard Jean-Baptiste Basquiat, who was a former Haitian minister of the interior. Basquiat's mother encouraged his interest in all forms of the visual arts. He attended a Catholic high school but dropped out a year before his graduation and moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan. There he lived with various friends and supported himself by selling small, postcard-size art and T-shirts.

When Basquiat was only seventeen he started partnering with his friend Al Diaz in lower Manhattan to graffiti dilapidated buildings and subway trains with images and poems, signing the artwork “SAMO,” which represented “same ole shit.” The graffiti often included cryptic sayings, such as “plush safe he think; SAMO,” “SAMO is an escape clause,” and “SAMO does not cause cancer in laboratory animals.” Within a year this graffiti garnered considerable interest. The Village ...

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Amy Helene Kirschke

painter, printmaker, and collage artist. Romare Howard Bearden was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, on 12 September 1911, to Richard Howard and Bessye Bearden. Although he only spent two years in North Carolina, his grandparents conveyed a sense of history and connection to the South, a connection that was reflected in his work throughout his career. Most of his childhood and adult life were spent in New York. He moved to New York in 1914, and then to Harlem in 1920. His mother, Bessye, was elected to the New York City school board in 1922 education was of paramount importance in his family Bearden had an expansive diverse career and is considered one of the finest American artists of the twentieth century He had an interest in political social and cultural issues including the visual arts music and literature He was particularly ...

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Carmen Oquendo-Villar

José Bedia was born in Havana, Cuba, where he pursued his formal artistic education at the Academia de Artes Plásticas San Alejandro and at the Instituto Superior de Arte. He left Cuba in 1991 and spent a brief time in Mexico before establishing himself in Miami in 1993. Bedia's work—drawings on paper; oil paintings on canvas; works in ink, acrylic, charcoal, oil crayons; and installations—derives most of its power from Cuba's African heritage, sometimes bringing to mind Kongo cosmograms (geometric designs which carry religious meanings) and Abakuá (Afro-Cuban all-male secret societies) ideographic writing. Texts in Spanish, Yoruba, or Bantu languages accompany many of his pieces. Despite the deep presence of African art Bedia's work, Cuban critic Gerardo Mosquera has labeled it postmodern Kongo art because it does not pretend to be a reenactment of original African art.

Bedia s adherence to local attitudes does not prevent him ...

Article

Sandra Y. Govan

Although she never collected her published poetry into a volume nor produced a collection of short stories, Gwendolyn Bennett was recognized as a versatile artist and significant figure in the Harlem Renaissance.

Torn between her ambition to work as a graphic artist and her desire to become a proficient writer using the medium of either poetry or prose, Bennett maintained the profile of an arts activist in New York City's African American arts community for over twenty years. However, the five-year period spanning 1923 to 1928 proved to be the most productive for her as a creative writer. It was within this brief span that James Weldon Johnson recognized Bennett as a lyric poet of some power.

Born in Giddings, Texas, Bennett led a nomadic childhood before her father, Joshua Robbin Bennett finally settled his family into comfortable surroundings in Brooklyn New York Bennett completed her secondary education at ...

Article

Ghirmai Negash

avant-garde Eritrean novelist, playwright, and painter-cum-sculptor, was educated in Eritrea, Ethiopia, and at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, from which he graduated in 1963 with a degree in public administration and political science. Beyene Haile lived in Addis Ababa until Eritrean independence. In 1992, he moved to Asmara, where he worked as a management consultant and trainer while still pursuing his artistic career.

Beyene Haile is the author of three Tigrinya-language novels and a play. His 1965 debut novel, Abiduʾdo Teblewo? Madness differs from conventional Tigrinya writing in at least three fundamental ways First it takes an intellectual and artist as its main character and tells his story with compelling force and narrative skill Wounded by life the central character of the novel a bohemian artist called Mezgebe uses his art to heal his wounds and those of others in a manner that borders on insanity Another ...

Article

Paulette Smith

Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wilson Bigaud was introduced to so-called naive painting by Hector Hyppolite, one of Haiti's most famous artists. Deep melancholy and depression plagued Bigaud's exceptional but tragically short career. His famous canvas Paradis terrestre, recognized as one of the purest masterpieces of Haitian art, has single-handedly exported the magic of his vision of a black Adam to a broad international audience.

Bigaud's artistic talent was proclaimed to equal Brueghel's when he produced his Noces de Cana (Miracle of Cana, 1951), the famous 528-square-foot fresco decorating the Episcopal Cathedral of Port-au-Prince. Bigaud's impressive self-portrait (1958) best reveals the precision of his brushwork and the artist's desire for perfect control of his surroundings. In the painting he depicts himself in the apparel of the arrivé a Haitian term meaning the one who made it wearing a distinguished panama hat and dressed ...

Article

Born in Gastonia, North Carolina, John Biggers was one of seven children. His father, Paul Biggers, was a school principal, preacher, and basket maker. Biggers studied at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia, where he resolved to become an artist. Biggers served in the United States Navy from 1943 to 1946, and in 1944 painted a mural for the U.S. Naval Training School at Hampton. He subsequently attended Pennsylvania State University, where he earned B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees. Biggers founded and chaired the art department at Texas Southern University, where he implemented progressive art programs that involved local communities.

Biggers is known for his murals a form he began to master while at Hampton Many of his early works no longer exist because they were painted directly on buildings that were later destroyed or altered His works demonstrate his interest in the concrete spiritual ...

Article

Amy Helene Kirschke

artist. Originally from Gastonia, North Carolina, Biggers grew up in the segregated South, the youngest of seven children. His childhood was marred by tragedy, with the deaths of his sister and his father, both from diabetes. John attempted to help his mother in any way he could, often helping with the laundry she took in to support the family. These images eventually appeared in his work.

With the sole responsibility of raising her large family Biggers s mother decided to send the two youngest boys to Lincoln Academy This was an important development in John s interest in African culture The principal of the school had served as a missionary in West Africa and was determined to instill a respect and an understanding of African culture in his students Biggers had the unusual experience of learning in detail about African culture an interest that grew as he developed as ...

Article

Rebecca Martin Nagy

artist and educator, was born in Addis Ababa to an Ethiopian mother and an Armenian father who was a colonel in the Imperial Body Guard of Haile Selassie. Boghossian received early art training at Tafari Makonnen Secondary School and in private lessons with Stanislas Chojnacki, a historian of Ethiopian art and water-colorist, then librarian at the University College of Addis Ababa (later Haile Selassie I University and now Addis Ababa University), and with Jacques Godbout, a Canadian writer, filmmaker, and painter who taught French at the University College.

In 1955 Boghossian won second prize at an art exhibition held as part of Haile Selassie s Jubilee Anniversary Celebration and was awarded an imperial scholarship to study in London After attending classes at St Martin s School the Central School and the Slade School of Fine Art in London the young artist decided to transfer his studies to Paris where ...

Article

Robert E. Fleming

Bontemps, Arna Wendell (13 October 1902–04 June 1973), writer, was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the son of Paul Bismark Bontemps, a bricklayer, and Maria Carolina Pembroke, a schoolteacher. He was reared in Los Angeles, where his family moved when he was three. He graduated from Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, in 1923.

Bontemps then moved to New York’s Harlem, where the “Harlem Renaissance” had already attracted the attention of West Coast intellectuals. He found a teaching job at the Harlem Academy in 1924 and began to publish poetry. He won the Alexander Pushkin Prize of Opportunity, a journal published by the National Urban League, in 1926 and 1927 and the Crisis (official journal of the NAACP) Poetry Prize in 1926. His career soon intersected that of the poet Langston Hughes with whom he became a close friend and sometime collaborator In Harlem Bontemps also ...

Article

Kennedy A. Walibora Waliaula

South African painter, writer, poet, and antiapartheid activist, was born in Bonnievale in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. The third-born child in a family of five (four sons, and one daughter), Breytenbach was a twin, although his twin died at infancy. The Breytenbachs descended from the lineage of one Coenrad Breytenbach, a military officer of lower rank who arrived in South Africa from Europe in 1656 It is unclear whether Coenrad Breytenbach was Dutch or whether he had other European origins On the maternal side Breyten Breytenbach descended from the Cloetes of France However he would often downplay his European origins stressing instead his ties to Africa Two of his brothers were prominent figures in South Africa and had strong associations with the apartheid system Jan was a senior military officer while Cloete was a famous photojournalist Breytenbach s opposition to apartheid and Afrikanerdom made him something of a ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

where the Perquimans River feeds into Albemarle Sound. His mother was probably born Elizabeth Murray, the daughter of John and Mamie or Annie Murray, and she may have been married to a Benjamin Roundtree, the likely name of the future artist’s father. His paternal lineage may extend to a Benjamin Roundtree who served in the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War.

Britt’s mother was born in 1908, so she was fifteen when her first child was born. She later married William Britt, also a native of North Carolina; they had two more children, Annie and Willis, then sometime before 1930 moved to Philadelphia. Benjamin appears to have remained past 1930 in North Carolina with his grandparents John W and Annie M Murray before joining his mother and the rest of the family in Philadelphia where he was given his stepfather s surname William Britt last recorded as ...

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Born in rural Jamaica, Everald Brown moved to West Kingston in 1947 and became deeply interested in the religion of the Rastafarians. Having established a small unofficial church in 1960, he began making artworks for use in church ritual. These works are noted for their intuitive style and use of imagery from Rastafarian, Ethiopian Orthodox, Judaic, and Christian revivalist religious traditions. Brown claims that these images come to him through dreams and visions. Among his most acclaimed paintings is Ethiopian Apple (1970), which is in the collection of the National Gallery of Jamaica.

An accomplished sculptor as well as an intuitive painter, Brown has also gained fame for his carved musical instruments. From the early 1970s he lived in rural Jamaica, where he devoted himself to art that promoted spiritual and environmental concerns.

See also Art in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Article

Christopher P. Lehman

American animation—the art of constructing the illusion of movement of inanimate objects, especially through sequences of drawings—dates back to the first decade of the twentieth century. Many of the early animators were European immigrants or children of European immigrants. The studios where they worked were composed of animators from many different parts of Europe. They called each other ethnic slurs as part of their process of assimilating into American society, and they put their jokes into their films by drawing derogatory ethnic caricatures. However, no African Americans worked in these studios as animators before 1954. As a result the jokes at their expense were one-sided. Still, animators claimed not to have caricatured African Americans with malice in mind. They considered their humor concerning African Americans as part of the culture around them.

When designing their African American characters for films animators borrowed from ethnic caricatures in the print cartoons ...

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Joëlle Vitiello

Georges Castera became interested in literature first in Haiti, then in high school in Montpellier, France, where he discovered the surrealists and the Négritude poets. It was during his stay in France that he also began to draw. Upon returning to Haiti, encouraged by Paul Laraque, he began to write in Creole. Castera has spent more than twenty years outside Haiti, mostly in Spain and the United States. He has always remained firmly connected to a popular imagination, both Haitian and international.

One of the best known Haitian poets Castera does not see himself as part of the artistic establishment despite his strong influence on the younger generation of poets Poetry is for him a fundamentally revolutionary act Writing in Creole implies an engagement in social and political issues as well as a reflection on the creative process Some of his poems parody the speeches of military leaders ...