In paintings, murals, and book illustrations, Aaron Douglas (1899Ė1979) produced the most powerful visual legacy of the Harlem Renaissance, prompting the philosopher and writer Alain Locke to dub him the ďfather of Black American art.Ē Working from a politicized concept of personal identity and a utopian vision of the future, the artist made a lasting impact on American art history and on the nationís cultural heritage. Douglasís role, as well as that of the Harlem Renaissance in general, in the evolution of American modernism deserves close scholarly attention, which it finally receives in this beautifully illustrated book.
Douglas combined angular Cubist rhythms and seductive Art Deco dynamism with traditional African and African American imagery. The result was a radically new utopian visual vocabulary that evoked both current realities and hopes for a better future. Presenting more than ninety illustrations of Douglasís works and the commentary of leading critics and historians, this book focuses on the artistís career from the 1920s through the 1940s in relation to American modernism. Its authors argue that Douglasís bold work opened doors for African American artists in Harlem and beyond, and that it invited a dialogue with modernism that put African American life, labor, and freedom, along with African traditions and motifs, at its center. New information emerges from these pages, reflecting the rich interchange between the visual arts, music, dance, literature, and politics that shaped Douglasís work and also defined the Harlem Renaissance.
Susan Earle is curator of European and American Art at the Spencer Museum of Art. Renťe Ater is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland. Kinshasha Holman Conwill is deputy director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution. David C. Driskell, a practicing artist and scholar, is retired as Distinguished Professor of Art at the University of Maryland. Amy Helene Kirschke is associate professor of art history at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. Stephanie Fox Knappe is a doctoral candidate in the history of art at the University of Kansas. Richard J. Powell is John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art and Art History at Duke University. Cheryl R. Ragar is visiting instructor in the Interdisciplinary Studies Department at Drury University in Springfield, Missouri.
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