Watoto Xngo D'Ina
I distinguish my self from... ( yet fully Acknowledge and participate in ) Black Art as a historical reality. That is because I do not Identify by Colorism, or by the general terms and distinctions that the sometimes Ostentatious Black Art Tradition can reflect.
As of 199 when I recieved "Ikofa" I dedicated my practice to my Ifa Orisa Traditions and Folkloric Associations / Symbolisms
My chosen Studio Genre at S.U. was Neo Expressionism...After the Abstract Expressionist / Neo Expressionist Movement which drastically departed from European Formalism. Picasso was the Face of the Abstract Expressionists, though he was most known for his personal Cubism style.
In the Neo Expressionist Movement, the lines of distinction became blurred and Jean Michael Basquiat's revolutionary form of Expressive Painting became the New Face and spawned a large sub movement from his personal influence and his radical free form / layered / text oriented painting style. Basquiat was "SELF TAUGHT" ... not a product of Art School but he studied the Masters and he also read the literary classics which were reflected in his text ridden images. He was a seeker ... curious ... sometimes lost, but very determined to succeed and he did
Pops 1972 / Casien Color on Board
There is no established "GENRE" distinction that defines Black or African American Art from it's own aesthetic base. Hip Hop Culture / which developed parallel to the Neo Expressionist Movement has 50 years+ towards that end because it was independent minded and close to the High Finance Music Industry. Rap...the Original sparse form of Bass, High Hat and Voice, is the only living Modernized African American Culture that is both completely American and Completely defined "Authoritatively" from the "African American" ( Black ) Grass Roots Aesthetic. Rap is about Black life, thought, opinion, struggle and Street Code. As an Artist within the 70's Rap to 90's Rap / Hip hop Culture of NYC ...
the "Indie" ( Independent Entrepreneur ) Spirit was a driving force.
Our Generation are Architects of today's African American Culture in it's entirety because we created and defined it from the African American aesthetic. That accomplishment aligns with period "Black" history of the 1964 Civil Rights Act
and the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act and forward > Socially / Politically from that point in history.
The Era of Political and Ecconomic Growth began with MLK's work. We adhered to staunch ( necessary ) individualism of the NYC Hustle Spirit, in a time where almost every new rise or discovery was a Black first. We consciously sought Self Definition, Defining our "OWN" experience intellectually and Spiritually. Afro Centricity as a mindset - was an American / Africanist / Intellectual movement that is akin in spirit to Literary Movements like Afro Centrism, the Political / Activist Black Power Mpvement and the European Counter Euro Negritude Movement. These movements sought to center all things from a Culture Centric perspective and break from the confines of social / political negativity of Majority / Colonial Culture.
Me at age 20 Photographed by renown Harlem Photographer Daniel Dawson
1985 Mural I painted on the Wall of the Hamilton Hill Art Center.
The mural's line design was done free style in masking tape. Then the colors were filled in and the tape removed. I mastered this style in large scale when I painted Mural type store signs in Syracuse's So. Side Black Community. I was asked to paint Lois's Lounge on State Street while I was painting a 40 ft Mural in Pioneer Homes. Every time I worked on one. another business man would aske me to come see them when I was done. The masking concept is used in silk screen print making and Canvas painting. the Geo Metric design is a strong influence of Jim ( James ) Phillips who was one of seven Artists who I shared a studio with as the second youngest SMH studio artist at 19. Justin Georges ( Sculptor was the youngest at 15. Philip's work employed a great deal of movement. dimension and optical illusion.
My original orientation as a Young African American Artist was to reflect the range of Aesthetics that came from the Harlem NYC and
the National Black Arts Movements back to the Depression Era WPA projects. "BLACK ART" developed "within" and "through" the confines of the
American / European Art Wealth Patronage, Industry Markets and Education Systems. When discussing Black art Today, it becomes obvious that "personal" opinion is the Popular Aesthetic of valuation. Personal opinion doesn't always have the insight to define Black Art in it's essence
within the culture from an institutional perspective which includes Black Organizations - Personal opinion and belief acts as the general description and valuation > which is limiting in terms of the ART PROFESSION and the basics that self taught artists struggle with. What art is or what an Artist is varies widely in the popular realm of understanding which is mainly visual preference. In the profession, an Artist is defined by his education, achievements and his ability to withstand critique by articulating his medium choices and intent. Popularity is a distinctly separate social issue in regards to an Artists lifestyle and financial success or failure.
In FACT, there is no common description of Black Art other than being of the Black Experience...
... further > Realistic Imagery depicting Black people....not Genre or media based.
Black Art is essentially Protest or reactionary... but distinctly American content or "American Perspective" > subject or statement wise. We are American cultured people ...Diaspora. People should understand that ethnicity, and genetic profile is what makes one African or not.
Culture is a definer of lifestyle and political belief ... American Culture a dispensary for Anglo Saxon / Christian tinted culture.
African African Americans have always been a protesting culture because America has never resolved it's Racial problems and hypocrisy that result from portraying to be a Democratically based country with democratic beliefs while not facing direct Systematically / Institutionally based Racism and policies that block the social / political progress of African American people. We who keep African tradition do so at a cost because society is not Africanist and therefore African tinted things of culture tend to fade to the background. There is an obvious need for examples of how Culture people can demonstrate that African American or African Culture is not just about slogans, calls and celebrations. As displaced Diaspora descendants we have to be scholars of our own traditions. One may ask why you should have to study yourself? The answer is that not everyone can or will. Those wo were exposed by events or a book or a friend they met will have a very different experience from those whose parents are artists or craftsmen or folk artists and the next generation went to school. The budding professional will NOT be concerned not with how to do his art. He won't be stumped by technical issues that are basic. He will be concerned with using his fundamentals of the Professional Art Practices that build audience, brand and quality.
In the general Popular Realm, ART itself > as a "Term" is highly personalized in terms of what it claims to be from the mouths of the
Self Taught individual who see's "INDIVIDUALITY" - "GOD Given Talent" and "Will" as the definer. Artists who develop amateur practices and decide to go to College or Art School rely on Education & Networking in the field and the History that tells the story of where we are today.
So an "Advanced" education actually places you in the American field fully defined from a "Euro American" Centric base.
You as an ethnic Artist have the choice to employ social statements and define yourself Politically or Racially...or not...
ART to an Art Schooled Artist is WORKING FROM ONE OR MORE GENRE BASES using the learned principles of composition, texture, style, technique, medium use and the "Chosen" defining artistic direction that is relevant to History and the Masters of European Tradition.
Baba John Mason ( Brooklyn Priest of Obatala and Babalowo, said in his Book "Orin Orisa" ...Songs for the Orisa
"AFRICAN ART IS ARGUABLY THE "SPRINGBOARD" FOR THE ENTIRE MODERN ARTS MOVEMENT"
...African Art during the Colonial / Slavery times was relegated to the label of "PRIMITIVE" and was collected as examples of Anthropology. Artists like Picasso and Modigliani to name two renown masters of Modern Art Studied African Art as Inspiration. They both had African Sculpture in their studios to study and they used them in their paintings as subject.
Modern African American Artists create for Professional or Personal pursuit as individuals with "Artistic License" In Ancient times the Artist was highly regarded as a community specialist and sometimes a Priest. In every aspect of life the artist played an important role because everything had to be made including functional Art, clothing, Religious and Ceremonial Works.
In Tradition African Artists Artists operated under the African Patronage system. Religious works were commissioned and those Artists who were diligent established Guilds or Schools of Art under family names as Carvers in their field of distinction.
FOR MODERN AFRICAN AMERICAN ARTISTS INCOME, OR WEALTH COMES FROM PURSUING YOUR STUDIO PRACTICE IN FULL AND CREATING THAT BODY OF WORK THAT DEFINES YOUR STYLE AND MODE OF COMMUNICATION.
Also creating a following or avenue of work that is continuous and for sale to a following
"Professional Practices in the Art" is an actual College Curriculum that is necessary today...
...it was not as necessary in my early days because in my now esoteric education, we studied Advertising and Illustration which is the basis of Modern advertising. Professional Practices is the "Modern Field" of resources and understanding on how to self promote, prepare, archive and / or know how promotion and the basics of the industry work for your benefit.
... and drastic change ...
BLACK ART IS SOCIAL COMMENTARY ...not a style or media genre
IF YOU CALL IT "BLACK ART" then you are expressing a form of Creative Social PROTEST
WHETHER IT IS PASSIVE OR AGGRESSIVE. BLACK Art as a definition makes the work a statement of protest
against the prevailing negative aspects of - Americana Culture - that promote inequality in any way
AFRICAN AMERICANS LIKE MY GRAND FATHER CHARLES BROWN CAME HERE FROM THE CARIBBEAN IN THE 1920's
They came to assimilate ( raise a family, work and have a better life ) to experience the American Dream which at that time was Legit and functioning amidst Social Racism from Original Americans as well as the first wave of early European immigrants. Assimilation, which the large majority of African / Caribbean immigrants did in America was to willingly take common work to support yourself, "adopt" the benefits and social opportunities in the majority culture, pay taxes and be a good citizen = do your life as a beneficial American and being a cog in the whole machine.
A great many folk from the Caribbean came here before the 1964 civil Rights Act and became part of the American Middle Class and they are still there. Some ( MANY ) became part of the wealthy classes. Assimilation does not equal selling out.
IT WAS THE WAY OF PROGRESS FOR PRE CIVIL RIGHTS ERA. Education, Work, Social Progress AND Raising a Family
Those successful immigrants represent the African American Core of America. They can't be labeled as Coons as the shallow call them ... because they are liberal minded - as some from the Popular based "Black Construct" mentality, will assert. There has to be assimilated people for the protection and progress of the whole. Assimilated does not mean sellout...
Intellectualism or speaking proper English is seen by many as "Speaking the White Mans language"
This coming from someone who rejects education as indoctrination and who is writing in poor to fairly competent English. Lacking any indication that they understand that THEY speak the "Vernacular" language that THEY reject as Indoctrination. Language is how you express...How you express is from your state of mind...If you have no language you tend to emote in order to physically express what you cannot verbalize. Language ...both visual and written... is a Sword.