Friday, October 31, 2008

Changing Times*

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The 1960's and 1970's ushered in the beginning of many nationwide social and political changes for African Americans in general. The CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, the ASSASSINATIONS of JOHN F. KENNEDY, MARTIN LUTHER KING JR, and ROBERT KENNEDY brought to the African American visual artists a high degree of consciousness and commitment to capturing startling and changing events and transposing these expressions into paintings and photographs. The struggle for EQUAL RIGHTS in AMERICA created another focus and slanted the visual artists' conceptions of art as a means of social and political expression. The NOW was on CONTEMPORARY ISSUES IN ART. The climate in America presented a high degree of uncertainty, and the emphasis on AFRO in American life and in art brought in artistic creations fused with many unexplained abstractions which took on a surrealistic quality. Many mixed media collages having bold geometric forms with abstract and metaphysical themes suddenly appeared in art. Before the 70's ended, the African American visual artists had acquired a full range of mixed lessons coming from their environmental encounters and their experimentation with free expressions.

This was also a time of rapid explosion in support coming from many newly established COMMUNITY ART CENTERS and a host of GALLERIES created exclusively for the showing of works by African American visual artists. Many more African American visual artists also took on Afrocentric themes and subjects dealing with the human conditions of being African Americans. This was also a time when some of the well known and established African American visual artists began to teach and even establish UNIVERSITY ART DEPARTMENTS at many of the HISTORICALLY BLACK COLLEGES and UNIVERSITIES.

The 1980's and 1990's saw several major happenings in the world of the African-American visual artists:

Most major cities could now boast about their having a major museum or gallery which dealt with African American history and culture.
Many large CORPORATIONS were reaching out to sponsor the Arts of African American artists. Examples: JOSEPH E. SEAGRAM AND SONS, BEN AND JERRY'S ICE CREAM, and SMITH KLINE LABORATORIES.
Federal Government support via THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS was available.
Many city GOVERNMENTS decided to provide FUNDING FOR THE ARTS.
MUSEUMS and GALLERIES have now become year-round CULTURAL CENTERS with diversified activities and FUNDRAISING PROGRAMS.
TOURISM BUREAUS have been promoting cities by citing the locations and types of galleries and museums, featuring their PERMANENT ART COLLECTIONS and also the appearances of TRAVELING ART EXHIBITS such as THE BARNETT-ADEN ART COLLECTION covering the world's largest collection of African American Art from 1850 to the present day.

The year of 1968 opened the doors for many more exhibits by the MAINSTREAM MAJOR ART MUSEUMS. That focus came about due to the showing of AMERICAN ARTISTS OF THE 1930'S at the WHITNEY MUSEUM. African American artists were not included in this presentation, and they later pressured the MUSEUM to allow them to do a showing. In 1971, an exhibit entitled CONTEMPORARY BLACK ARTISTS was staged at the Whitney Museum in New York. Other doors later opened as African American artists were exhibited at the MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, and the GUGGENHEIM.

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