Black Art

Written by Sarah Provost
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The roots of Black art go deep. Subject matter, themes, and even styles of Black art reflect the history and culture of the Black experience. Just as the two main trunks of Black music are jazz and gospel, Black art has two main divisions, one rooted in the African experience and one in the American experience.

African Influences in Black Art

One thing both jazz and gospel have in common is passion, and paintings by Black artists reflect this. Rich, bright colors abound, and the visual energy and movement are so great in a painting such as Carolina Shout by Romare Bearden that music and dance seem somehow to have been incorporated into the medium. Paintings showing African influence are often stylized, but seldom purely abstract.

The second branch of Black art consists of representational domestic scenes, often frankly verging on the sentimental. Banjo Lesson by Henry Tanner and Visiting Grandpa by Tim Ashkar are two examples of this genre. These scenes most frequently present a nostalgic, idealized view of the African American experience, and urban images are for the most part absent from this group.

Many themes span both styles. Religion and spirituality, for example, are very important subjects in Black art. One artist may choose to depict a vibrant, ecstatic vision of baptism, for example, full of life, visual rhythm and emotion. Another may present a deeply conventional angel or old woman at prayer. Thanks to the presence of online galleries, there are literally hundreds of images to choose from, in whatever style pleases you most.

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