Narratives of African American Art and Identity
Section V Artists

Terry Adkins

Elizabeth Catlett

Robert Colescott

Eldzier Cortor

Beauford Delaney

Aaron Douglas

Minnie Evans

Sam Gilliam

Michael D. Harris

Margo Humphrey

Clementine Hunter

Jacob Lawrence

Norman Lewis

Richard Mayhew

William McNeil

Sam Middleton

Keith Morrison

Mary Lovelace O'Neal

Stephanie Pogue

Martin Puryear

Ray Saunders

Frank Smith

Vincent Smith

Gilda Snowden

Frank Stewart

Lou Stovall

Alma Thomas

Yvonne Edwards Tucker

Walter Williams

William T. Williams

Diaspora Identities

A central issue in the dialogue among black artists, their work, and the public has been the conflict inherent in appropriating European-American aesthetic and art-historical traditions, especially when juxtaposed with the diversity of black experience that was often not well-served by those traditions. Some black artists rejected the growing popularity of abstraction in 1950s America, feeling that narrative and figurative conventions suited their message-oriented agenda much more than did subject neutral expression. Others pursued formalist styles not immediately identifiable with ethnic heritage. Still others, eager to explore artistic identities that would fuse Western and non-Western traditions, mined the rich cultural traditions of the African continent and diaspora communities in the Americas. As the context for making, exhibiting, and selling art became more global, the issues of identity for artists of color began to cross boundaries of nationhood, gender, and color. The transnational explorations of diaspora identity mark both the beginning of fresh perspectives and the continuation of a dialogue that has been going on since Africans were first brought to the Americas.

Artists in the Driskell collection who engage with these issues of international and diasporal identity include several of those previously mentioned in sections I-IV as well as Terry Adkins, Robert Colescott, Beaufort Delaney, Minnie Evans, Michael Harris, Margo Humphrey, Sam Gilliam, Norman Lewis, Richard Mayhew, Sam Middleton, Keith Morrison, Mary O'Neal, Stephanie Pogue, Ray Saunders, Frank Stewart, Alma Thomas, Yvonne Edwards Tucker, and William T. Williams. This last section of the exhibition will present a rich sampling of works from the last three decades which demonstrate the expression of multiple and varied artistic identities within black art in the United States.


David Driskell
Related Sites
V. Diaspora Identities