The South in African American Art

Authored by: Betty J. Crouther

The Routledge Companion to African American Art History

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138486553
eBook ISBN: 9781351045193
Adobe ISBN:


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The South visible in African American art cannot be painted with one brush. It is lived—the art of personal experience—and perceived, revealed, reclaimed, constructed, romanticized, and mythologized. It is urban and rural, middle and lower class. Southern-born African American artists who pursued careers in the South are typically omitted from mainstream art history. A few who transplanted to New York City, Washington, DC, or the West Coast and managed to break into the mainstream are disassociated from their southern roots, thereby denying or undermining the South’s contributions to shaping their styles and influences. The rage for “folk art” in the late twentieth century painted an image of African American southern art as primarily “folk,” the authentic art of the region. The “folk” were said to not know they were artists, working instead from visionary impulses, yet when interviewed, these artists often expressed pride in being able to do something others around them could not. They recognized their own creative gifts. Since much of the scholarship on southern African American art is not the work of southerners, art historians, or black people themselves, the importance of the maker’s own voice cannot be overstated.

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