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
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 ) - and personal opinion acts as the general description. 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.
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 the Spiritual Practices 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.
"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.
BLACK ART IS SOCIAL COMMENTARY
IF YOU CALL IT "BLACK ART" THEN YOU ARE EXPRESSING AN ASPECT OF PROTEST WHETHER IT IS PASSIVE OR AGGRESSIVE
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 THE 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 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.