AAS 3500 - African American Arts and Artists

The class is an intensive study of a specific topic/theme of Black visual and expressive culture. The course will be structured around this specific topic/theme to illustrate the methods and traditions of black visual and expressive culture. The content of the course will rotate but always address the relationship between art practice and the idea of race. Such topics might include feminist art, the racial grotesque, Chester Himes and the noir tradition, passing and the black embodiment index, historical consciousness and Civil Rights America, hip-hop modernism, or an analysis of one literary text (Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man or Ishmael Reed's Mumbo Jumbo) and its influence of black visual and expressive culture. The purpose of this class is to promote a rigorous sense of blackness as entailing a negotiation with the necessary, creative tensions between art and distinct modalities of black visual and expressive culture. In other words, this course redraws the lines of influence, appreciation, allusion, causality, reference, and exposition by recognizing the importance of ambiguity over prescription. The approach of the class is most immediately informed by the work of Darby English (How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness), Kobena Mercer (Annotating Art's Histories series), and Kimberly Benston (Performing Blackness: Enactments of African American Modernism). This body of literature represents a focus on black visual and expressive culture as a critical art informed by the history of African Americans but not utterly reducible to that history. Therefore, the course frames the respective topic or theme as a multi-discursive aesthetic and cultural practice. In this way, the method will be that of visual culture and black studies.
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Spring 2019
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