III

Narratives of African American Art and Identity

Allan Rohan Crite

Last Station: Suggestion for the Station of the Cross, 1935

Ink on paper

18" x 15"


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Last Station: Suggestion for the Station of the Cross

"For a long time, I felt as far as the Church was concerned, that there was too much the impression of a mostly European institution, practically to the exclusion of anything else," wrote Boston artist Allan Crite in his An Autobiographical Sketch. His Last Station is a typical example of the type of liturgical art he produced in the 1930s. During this time period, he was acutely sensitive to stereotypes of African Americans, and like many middle-class African Americans, felt unsure about the merits of jazz and "church revivalist" imagery. As a result, Crite adopted a "high" Episcopalian or Catholic visual vocabulary from the liturgical movement of which he was a part. In Last Station, by combining formal church "vocabulary," such as Christ's tripartite halo (which refers to the Trinity) with solemn black figures, Crite conveys the dignity and deep spirituality that he insisted African Americans possessed.

Crite has always used his art to teach, whether for religious or historical reasons. Unlike its Harlem counterpart, 1930s Boston possessed a small African American community with few black artists. Years later, Crite contributed to Boston's African American art scene by creating the Artists' Collective, a forum for emerging African American artists. Well known in the Boston community, he has lectured frequently and served as a mentor to many new artists, prompting him to joke that "I'm looked upon as the patriarch of artists in this area, which means almost that if I say anything, it sounds like an ex cathedra statement..." His community involvement has extended to schools as well; in 1968, he initiated a project for schoolchildren on the cultural heritage of the United States.   J. S.

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