Spring 2011

African American Sculpture

Vol LX, No.1

Sculpting a Lineage: Elizabeth Catlett and African American Women Sculptors
by Melanie Anne Herzog

Elizabeth Catlett's sculpture stands as a testament to a life dedicated to visibility, voice, and justice for marginalized peoples. Bearing witness to the struggles, passions, and achievements of ordinary people, these figures, sculpted in wood, stone, marble, and clay; sometimes cast in bronze, are determined, resilient, regal, and celebratory. Most are figures of women–mothers, workers, and survivors' which take their place in a lineage of figuration by African American women sculptors.
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Young, Gifted, and Black Between the Wars, Richmond Barthé's Manhattan Years
by Margaret Rose Vendryes

Richmond Barthé was one of a handful of token African American students studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1924 through 1928. A decade later, he admitted that he was often singled out because of his race and not necessarily the quality of his work. Brown skin, good looks, and genteel Mississippi Creole ways were Barthé's currency throughout his life, and he made no apologies for it. But an early self-portrait betrays a troubled psyche–dark side to the perpetually upbeat sculptor from Chicago. In a work lost to us, a young and determined Barthé reaches out, as if painting, his arm reduced to a stub. In this self–portrait he skillfully described the lingering ambivalence of a trained painter following the advice of respected critics and pursuing a career as a sculptor. Barthé did eventually embrace sculpture and go on to capitalize on the popularity between the World Wars of art made by 'black' hands about black culture.
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Four African American Sculptors: A Vision for Today
by Jodie A. Shull

Fifty years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, African American poet James Weldon Johnson celebrated the anniversary in The New York Times: "Courage! Look out, beyond, and see/ The far horizon's beckoning span!/ Faith in your God-known destiny!" With the end of the Civil War and the reordering of society that followed, a destiny began to unfold that would bring America's nearly 4.5 million black citizens out of bondage and into a different kind of struggle for equality, opportunity, and freedom of expression. New generations of African American artists gained freedom of movement and the resources needed to reach schools, studios, and workshops in Europe and America. Those who arrived in New York during the 1920s found an atmosphere of growing opportunity for patronage and recognition in the great flowering of black art, literature, and music known as the Harlem Renaissance.
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Sculpture News
by Germana Pucci

A larger than life-size standing bronze figure of NFL football legend Merlin Olsen was recently dedicated at Utah State University. The piece was created by Blair Buswell, a sculptor native to Utah and known largely for his portraits of sports figures. Mr. Buswell is also responsible for the a twice life–sized kneeling figure of General Robert Neyland at the University of Tennessee football stadium, which was also dedicated late in 2010.
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