Black Art in Austin??

After a long day of painting followed by many hours of not painting and talking about painting, I’ve decided to give the brush a rest and give the keyboard a try. After a nice critique in my painting class I went to the library to research. PAUSE. All artists must research. If you are one of those artists who does not research, you will never make it. There is no shame in learning from the past. PLAY. At the library, I noticed that not many black artists are present outside of the big hitters. The big hitters are Mark Bradford, Kerry James Marshall, Michale Ray Charles, Kara Walker, Romare Bearden, Ellen Gallagher, you see where I’m headed. Art 21 artists, MacArthur Genius recipients, censored or banned from showing in their hometowns were the artists that had the pleasure of being in the library. What happened to John Biggers? Tanner? Savage?White?Catlett? Why aren’t these artists present? Why are the big hitters all about race? Not to say that race isn’t valid, but what is being communicated when a young artist wants to research black contemporary artists and all he/she can find are artists commenting on race in America? Does one not exist without the other?  Questions upon questions continue to surface as I punch away at the keys. Does any of this mean anything?? Am I over thinking it? Did I spend too much time in Chicago, Atlanta and NYC?? As an African American artist, I would like to see more art from women and men of color. Yes, at the current moment the Blanton Museum of Art has a fantastic exhibition of El Anatsui (a Ghanian artist who teaches, works, and lives in Nigeria) and people flock to his show. They flock because there is NOTHING showing in Austin remotely like his work. Not because he’s Ghanian but because it’s different. Much of Austin art scene is beginning to look the same. “Abstract”, brightly colored, Geometric…. Weird. Not inspiring…but maybe that is found in all cities to an extent. Maybe I’ve been going to the wrong galleries.I want more variety. Maybe the lack of material in the library was a jumping point for just that. Variety! I want more artists like Miguel Aragon and Jason Villegas and less 1980’s meets Acrylic.

I’m a little tired, hence the rattling of questions.But I’ve raised a valid question that I’ve even opened to friends. Is it possible to be an African American artist and not comment about race?? I’ve asked a number of people, emerging artists, Art critics, big hitters and more. The answer was the same…No, it is not possible.


3 thoughts on “Black Art in Austin??

  1. I think no matter what, if you’re black in America and you are creating visual works of art, most people will try to see the “blackness” in it. They’ll be more interested in the story behind it and the history of the artist. In a way that’s great- I don’t think there’s anything negative about people trying to find the artists’ comment about race in their work, since discussion is discussion and hopefully it will lead in other directions. The problem is that most viewers, once “figuring out” what the artist is trying to say about race, will move on without asking more questions.

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