V

Narratives of African American Art and Identity

Vincent Smith

Arthur Rimbaud's House in Harar, 1975

Etching on paper

14.75" x 22.25"


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Arthur Rimbaud's House in Harar

Vincent Smith's etching conveys many of his interests. Arthur Rimbaud, a French symbolist poet who died in 1891 at the age of thirty-seven, spent the last ten years of his life as a trader and gunrunner along the North African coast. His poetry profoundly influenced the Beat poets, whom Smith admired. Smith's interest and participation in New York's 1950s and 1960s literary scene, which included poets such as LeRoi Jones, extended to earlier poets and their works. In Arthur Rimbaud's House in Harar, Smith expressionistically conveys the creativity, decadence, and instability that characterized Rimbaud's life. The combination of yellow-orange and green tones imparts a feeling of delirium to the composition; the ornamented house with sagging features suggests both richness and decay. Smith emphasizes both a sense of place (Ethiopia) and Rimbaud's vitality through the African-derived masks that are present throughout the facade. In his works, Smith often explores his own heritage, particularly concentrating on jazz imagery and African-inspired masks and figures. Arthur Rimbaud's House in Harar shows his interest in African imagery while simultaneously suggesting that European history and figures are of no less interest to an African American artist.  J. S.

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