Diaspora

Culture Type: The 18 Best Black Art Books of 2022 – Culture Type

An essential resource focused on visual art from a Black perspective, Culture Type explores the intersection of art, history, and culture
<!– “Armando Alleyne: A Few of My Favorites,” art, poems, and text by Armando Alleyne, with essay by Tiona Nekkia McClodden (Edition Patrick Frey, 262 pages) © 2021 | Softcover, Published Jan. 18, 2022

 
Armando Alleyne: A Few of My Favorites

1996 to 2020 more than 70 works colored pencil, ink, or pastel drawings on paper acrylic collage paintings on rag paper or canvas Harlem artist xx has lived life, he’s been homeless xx whether his life was on the upswing or the downturn, one thing was consistent, his art

 

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TWO NEW BOOKS harken back nearly 50 years exploring profound moments in Black art history. Published on the occasion of a major exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, “Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces” documents the heady tenure of a groundbreaking, Black woman-owned gallery that functioned as a community space and experimental platform, from 1974 to 1986. “Marilyn Nance: Last Day in Lagos” brings to light a largely unseen body of work—photographs capturing FESTAC ’77, the month-long international arts festival that brought more than 15,000 Black people to Nigeria. Both volumes are among Culture Type’s Best Black Art Books of 2022. The list features a wide-range of illustrated publications, notable for their exceptional design, imagery, editorial strategy, and scholarship. Major monographs of El Anatsui, Firelei Báez, and Richard Hunt examine the practices of some of the most fascinating and thoughtful artists working today. Catalogs dedicated to major retrospectives of Nick Cave, Faith Ringgold, and Henry Taylor, and a survey of Haitian artists also made the list. (Titles listed in the order of their wide-distribution publication dates.):

“Mickalene Thomas,” Authored by Kellie Jones and Roxane Gay (Phaidon Press, 288 pages). | Hardcover, Published Jan. 5 2022
Mickalene Thomas makes powerful images of Black women—monumental paintings with complex, layered surfaces encrusted with rhinestones and glitter. Many books have explored Thomas’s work in the context of exhibitions. This is the first comprehensive monograph to focus on the full spectrum of her Brooklyn, N.Y.-based practice outside of an organized show. The stunning volume is illustrated with more than 200 color images, representing work spanning 2000 to 2021. Page after page celebrates Black women and their individuality, sexuality, agency, and varied beauty and body types. Thomas’s mise-en-scène portraits in repose are informed by Western art history, 70s-era fashion and interiors, Romare Bearden, Matisse, Picasso, African sculpture, and the studio portraits of Malian photographers Malick Sidibé and Seydou Keïta. Her influences are many, but the work is singular and all her own. Kellie Jones contributes an in-depth scholarly examination of Thomas’s full body of work, across paintings, collage, photography, video, and installations. The book opens with a profile of the artist written by Roxane Gay. “I make kick ass images,” Thomas told her. “They’re wild. They’re somewhat disruptive… They’re authentic. No one else can make the work I make. I’m making a mark on history.”
“Mickalene Thomas’s multimedia and multidisciplinary practice is rooted in the brilliance of her palette, the luminosity of her surfaces, the complexity of her compositions—its ode to flatness, its ode to medium. The shifting and dynamic expanses of Thomas’s picture planes employ color as architectonic form that constructs her surfaces with intention.” — Kellie Jones

“Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour – Frederick Douglass,” Edited by Cora Gilroy-Ware and Vladimir Seput, with interview by Jennifer A. González, and contributions from John Hanhardt, Jonathan Binstock, Celeste-Marie Bernier, Deborah Willis, Henry Gates, Paul Gilroy, Vron Ware, Susan Solt, Kass Banning, and Warren Crichlow (DelMonico Books/MAG/Tang/Isaac Julien Studio, 263 pages). | Hardcover, Published Feb. 1, 2022
For “Lessons of the Hour,” British artist Isaac Julien cast Ray Fearon as Frederick Douglass and the Shakespearean actor transformed into the distinguished orator and freedom fighter. Beautifully shot with exceptional sound, the 10-channel installation transports the viewer, dramatizing a series of episodes in Douglass’s life across an array of screens. Key speeches shape the work, including “Lessons of the Hour” (delivered at Metropolitan A.M.E. Church in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 9, 1894), “What to the Slave Is the 4th of July?,” and “Lecture on Pictures,” in which Douglass discusses the power of photography. Julien paired his ambitions film installation with an equally impressive publication. It’s handsomely designed with a cobalt blue linen cover and gilded edges. Inside, the publication is lavishly illustrated with installation views, film stills, photographic artworks featured in the exhibition, and archival images of Douglass. An interview with Julien explores how the commission from the University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery in partnership with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts came about, his experimental approach to making the multi-screen film, and how the historic themes of the project resonate with contemporary politics and the enduring fight for equality. An impressive slate of scholars contributed to the catalog, including Henry Louis Gates Jr., Celeste-Marie Bernier, and Paul Gilroy. New scholarship from Deborah Willis focuses on African American daguerreotypist and photographer J.P. Ball, who made a portrait of Douglass in his Cincinnati, Ohio, studio in 1867, a scene re-created in the film installation.

“Faith Ringgold, American People,” edited by Massimiliano Gioni and Gary Carrion-Murayari, with interview by Gioni, and contributions from Amiri Baraka, Diedrick Brackens, LeRonn P. Brooks, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Jordan Casteel, Bridget R. Cooks, Mark Godfrey, Lucy R. Lippard, Tschabalala Self, Michele Wallace, and Zoé Whitley (Phaidon Press, 240 pages). | Hardcover, Published Feb. 16, 2022
Artist Faith Ringgold is a lifelong change maker. When New York museums shunned women and Black artists, Ringgold protested. When America’s racial divide led to violence in the 1960s, she documented it in her art. Showcasing six decades of work (1962-2020), this exhibition catalog offers the most comprehensive assessment of the artist’s career to date. “Faith Ringgold: American People” at the New Museum in New York marked the first time a mainstream art museum in Ringgold’s hometown launched a major show of her work. The exhibition traveled to the de Young Museum in San Francisco, where it was the first retrospective of Ringgold on the West Coast. The volume features an interview with Ringgold and illustrates all of her major series, from her civil rights-era paintings (American People and Black Light series) and political posters to her abstract fabric works, soft sculpture, narrative story quilts (The American Collection, The French Collection, Tar Beach), and more. Contributions from Lucy R. Lippard and a new generation of artists, curators, and scholars shed light on the work, critical moments such as The People’s Flag Show (1970), and Ringgold’s broad influence.

“Pòtoprens: The Urban Artists of Port-au-Prince,” Co-edited by Leah Gordon and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, with contributions by Edouard Duval-Carrié, Richard Fleming, Gina Athena Ulysse, and Katelyne Alexis, etal. (Pioneer Works Press, 416 pages) © 2021, Edition of 1,500. | Hardcover, Published March 22, 2022
“Pòtoprens” documents a landmark survey of artists from Haiti’s capital. The exhibition was organized a few years ago by Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, N.Y. (2018) and later presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami in Florida (2019). Exceptionally designed, the volume features artworks, artist portraits, installation views, archival images, essays, oral histories, and a detailed timeline of Port-au-Prince, dating from pre-1492 to 2021. “Pale Kreyól (Speak Creole),” a head sculpture made in 2013 by Jean Salomon Horace (Ti Pelin), illustrates the cover of this extraordinary catalog. Ti Pelin is one of 13 Haitian artists who contributed a brief oral history. He has lived his entire life in Riviere Froide, about one hour south of Port-au-Prince. He carves sculptures out of limestone rocks found in the local river. Growing up, the rocks were so plentiful, his father sold piles of them to pay Ti Pelin’s school fees. Now the rocks are disappearing, he said, because trucks haul them away for construction in the city. With the free, natural materials disappearing, the artist is forced to buy rocks from other places. It’s expensive, making Ti Pelin doubt the artistic tradition will survive in his hometown. (The catalog is published in English and Haitian Creole.)
“My sculptures are alien things; they are not things that human beings can understand. Sometimes even I do not understand how I made them. When I have finished the work I say to myself, ‘How did I make such a thing? Where did I start and where did I finish?’ I do know that I only make heads. It is the character that is important; it’s not the body that’s important. The body is nothing; it is the head that leads the body.” — Ti Pelin

“Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure©,” by Lisane Basquiat, Jeanine Herveaux, and Nora Fitzpatrick, edited by Ileen Gallagher (‎Rizzoli Electa, 336 pages). | Hardcover, Published April 12, 2022
A slew of books has been published about Jean-Michel Basquiat and various aspects of his output—three in the past six weeks alone (“Seeing Loud, Basquiat and Music,” “Of Symbols and Signs,” and “Art and Objecthood”). This volume stands out because it is not authored or edited by curators, scholars, or even Basquiat’s contemporaries, rather it was conceived by his family. His two younger sisters (Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Herveaux) and stepmother (Nora Fitzpatrick) produced it to accompany the expansive exhibition the sisters organized: “Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure.” at the Starrett-Lehigh Building in New York. Reflecting the show, the catalog illustrates previously unseen art from The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, with the family providing detailed captions and insights about the works. The final contents of the artist’s Great Jones Street studio are also pictured—handwritten notes; paintings by Sam Doyle; wood masks, cloth dolls, toys and vintage cameras; and his expansive book, magazine, and videotape collections. The volume is also rife with family photographs, succinct memories of the artist through the years, and related ephemera. When he was a child, Basquiat was a junior member of the Brooklyn Museum, as evidenced by his membership card illustrated in the catalog. He was also a “mischief maker” who convinced his sister Jeanine to leap from the top of an armoire with an umbrella like Mary Poppins. “Needless to say, it didn’t work,” she said.
“When asked what his subject matter was in a 1983 interview, Jean-Michel answered, ‘Royalty, heroism, and the streets.’ He was speaking to how he would like to see Black people portrayed in America. My brother was critical of how they were depicted on TV, in film, and in the arts… He painted his pantheon of Black heroes as royalty—that is why there are crowns throughout his work.” — Jeanine Herveaux

“El Anatsui: The Reinvention of Sculpture,” authored by Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okeke-Agulu (Damiani, 359 pages). | Hardcover, Published June 14, 2022
Ghanaian-born, Nigeria-based El Anatsui is widely considered on of the most formidable sculptors of our time, based on the inventive nature of his most celebrated works. The artist combines thousands of discarded liquor bottle caps to form monumental draped works that exist at the intersection of sculpture, textiles, abstraction, and assemblage. After publishing “Contemporary African Art Since 1980” in 2009, Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okeke-Agulu, the co-founders of NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art, decided their next book project would be a monograph of Anatsui. In the preface, Okeke Agulu describes Anatsui as “the exemplary African artist that had attained global visibility, but whose work had not been subjected to the sort of sustained critical examination and analysis it deserved.” Intent on addressing this, the authors proceeded with the book in parallel with co-curating “El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale” at Haus der Kunst in Munich, where Enwezor served as director until his death in March 2019, one week after the exhibition opened. After losing his friend and collaborator, Okeke-Agulu completed the book they had started. “El Anatsui: The Reinvention of Sculpture” illustrates the artist’s entire body of work, from his early ceramics to his experimentation with wood and his celebrated metal bottle cap works. The volume presents an unparalleled critical account of the artist and his practice in five chapters, beginning with how decolonization and a modern African worldview influenced his artistic vision.
“…this book’s title signals the profundity of Anatsui’s achievement as a maker of things that defy every category of normative artistic objects and thus demands that we ponder anew sculpture’s meaning and possibilities.” — Chika Okeke-Agulu

“Nick Cave: Forothermore,” Edited by Naomi Beckwith, foreword by Madeleine Grynsztejn, essays by Romi Crawford, Krista Thompson, Antwaun Sargent, Malik Gaines, and Meida McNea, plus interview by Naomi Beckwith, and roundtable with Nick Cave, Damita Jo Freeman, Nona Hendryx, Linda Johnson Rice, and Naomi Beckwith (DelMonico Books/Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 296 pages). | Hardcover, Published June 21, 2022
The first Soundsuit Nick Cave made was in response to the police beating of Rodney King in 1992. Composed of thousands of sticks he collected in a park, the sculptural costume formed an armor of sorts and made sound when it moved. In the 30 years since, Chicago-based Cave has continued to create imaginative, often joyful and electrifying work, that nonetheless speaks to injustice. Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and now on view at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, “Nick Cave: Forothermore” surveys the entire scope of the artist’s career, presenting sculpture, installations, video, rarely seen early works, and 25 Soundsuits. The accompanying catalog resembles Cave’s exhibitions and installations. It’s an immersive, visual feast fully illustrated with beautiful images of individual works, installation views, and performances. Contributions include an opening essay by exhibition curator Naomi Beckwith, who also conducted an interview with the artist, and texts by Romi Crawford, Krista Thompson, Antwaun Sargent, and Malik Gaines. Designed by Bob Faust, Cave’s partner, the book has a transparent cover and begins and ends with a dose of reality—a dozen black pages with gray type listing the names of BIPOC individuals killed by police, between May 25, 2020 and May 25, 2021. The list is long.
Nick Cave: Forthermore: “The title of the exhibition is a neologism, a new word that reflects the artist’s lifelong commitment to creating space for those who feel marginalized by dominant society and culture—especially working-class communities and queer people of color.” — Guggenheim Museum

“Promise, Witness, Remembrance,” by Stephen Reily, Allison Glenn, and Toya Northington, et al. (Speed Art Museum/University Press of Kentucky, 272 pages). | Hardcover, Published Aug. 9, 2022
Presented by the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Ky., “Promise, Witness, Remembrance” was inspired by the life of Breonna Taylor with the blessing of her mother, Tamika Palmer. Rooted in community engagement, the exhibition was offered as a salve to the local community. Guest-curated by Allison Glenn, the collaborative effort was developed in conjunction with Palmer, Louisville activists and mental health professionals, national scholars, relatives of victims of police murder, and artists Amy Sherald and Theaster Gates (both of whom contributed artwork to the show), along with local artists and other prominent Black artists, including Kerry James Marshall, Terry Adkins, Sam Gilliam, Glenn Ligon, Rashid Johnson, and Nari Ward. Fully illustrated, the catalog explores how the exhibition came together and provides multiple access points to the process and the art through visual documentation and the voices of Glenn, the organizers, and artists who provide direct insights and commentary throughout the volume.

“Richard Hunt,” Foreword by Courtney J. Martin, with interview by Adrienne L. Childs, and contributions from John Yau, Jordan Carter, LeRonn Brooks, Jon Ott (Gregory R. Miller & Co., 368 pages) | Hardcover, Published Sept. 6, 2022
Chicago sculptor Richard Hunt produces abstract works, organic constructions that often suggest the figure and speak to African American history and culture. He describes the forms as “volumetric.” A fully illustrated, long-overdue volume, “Richard Hunt” is the definitive survey of his seven-decade career. In 1971, Hunt became the first African American sculptor to have a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His work is in the collections of countless museums and he has created about 160 public artworks installed throughout the United States, including a monument to Ida B. Wells unveiled last year and a commission at the forthcoming Obama Presidential Center, both in Chicago. And yet, this publication is the first comprehensive accounting of his life and work. More than 350 images showcase his vast oeuvre. Courtney J. Martin penned the foreword and Adrienne L. Childs conducted an interview with Hunt, illuminating his background, methods, and influences, alongside essays by Jordan Carter, LeRonn Brooks, and John Yau, who explores Hunt’s “indisputable achievement.”

“In the Black Fantastic,” Authored by Ekow Eshun (MIT Press, 304 pages). | Hardcover, Published Sept. 6, 2022
“In the Black Fantastic” brings together 11 living artists whose work employs myth, science fiction, and Afrofuturism to challenge the social constructs of the contemporary world. Expressing themselves across painting, sculpture, photography, installation, and multimedia, the contributors are some of the most critically regarded Black artists working today: Nick Cave, Sedrick Chisom, Ellen Gallagher, Hew Locke, Wangechi Mutu, Rashaad Newsome, Chris Ofili, Tabita Rezaire, Cauleen Smith, Lina Iris Viktor, and Kara Walker. The image-driven catalog is designed by Rush Jackson Studio. A fitting complement to the show, the volume offers an expanded experience informed by the work of many more artists. Scholarly essays and brief texts in the form of tipped-in “extracts” speak to multiple disciplines, visual art, as well as film (Daughter’s of the Dust by Julie Dash, Eve’s Bayou by Kasi Lemmons, Haile Gerima’s Sankofa) and literature (slave narratives, Kindred by Octavia E. Butler).
“The Black fantastic is less a genre or a movement than a way of seeing, shared by artists who grapple with the legacy of slavery and the inequities of racialized contemporary society by conjuring new narratives of Black possibility.” — Exhibition Curator Ekow Eshun

“Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina,” edited by Adrienne Spinozzi, with contributions from Simone Leigh, Michael J. Bramwell, Vincent Brown, Katherine C. Hughes, Ethan W. Lasser, and Jason R. Young (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 200 pages). | Hardcover, Published Sept. 27, 2022
Documenting an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, “Hear Me Now” brings focused attention to the masterful work of David Drake, an enslaved potter who signed and dated his large-scale jars and further distinguished them with engraved poetic verse, at a time when it was considered a crime for him to be literate. While Drake is on the radar of collectors, museums, auction houses, and a new generation of artists, the catalog sheds light on his contemporaries, unnamed enslaved and free Black potters working in the mid-19th century whose long unacknowledged skills and labor were central to Southern stoneware and the industry that developed in Old Edgefield, S.C. The legacy of their creativity and contributions resonates in the practices of contemporary African American artists, including Woody De Othello, Theaster Gates, and Simone Leigh. The fully illustrated catalog includes images of Drake’s jars, face jugs by anonymous makers, archival documentation, and a selection of works by living artists. Scholarly essays consider the production, distribution, function, and artistry of the early works and the lives and circumstances of the people who made them. A conversation with Leigh, who represented the United States with a solo exhibition at 59th Venice Biennale (2022), explores the inter-generational connections and freighted history of the medium.

“Marilyn Nance: Last Day in Lagos,” Edited by Oluremi C. Onabanjo, with photographs by Marilyn Nance, foreword by Julie Mehretu, and text contributions by Antawan I. Byrd, Uchenna Ikonne, Tsitsi Ella Jaji, Zakiya Collier, and Chisom Ilogu (CARA/Fourthwall Books, 300 pages). | Hardcover, Published Oct. 1, 2022
Marilyn Nance’s “Last Day in Lagos” presents a comprehensive photographic account of FESTAC ’77, one of the most profound Black cultural moments of the 20th century. More than 15,000 artists, musicians, writers, and cultural figures from dozens of nations gathered for the historic month-long event, the Second Festival of Black Arts and Culture in Lagos, Nigeria, from Jan. 15 to Feb. 12, 1977. Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Nance attended as the official photographer for the U.S. delegation. She drew from her extensive archive to create the book. It’s a small-scale treasure (about 6 x 8 inches) full of black-and-white images—most previously unseen—contextualized by brief essays and an extensive interview conducted by Oluremi C. Onabanjo with Nance about how she got the opportunity to attend, what she experienced, and what she captured.
“If you want to see what it looked like to have 17,000 Africans gathered together from across the continent and the diaspora living, sharing, thinking, and performing together for thirty days in what was essentially a temporary Pan African nation. Then this book is for you. — Marilyn Nance

“Ghetto Gastro Presents Black Power Kitchen,” authored by Jon Gray, Pierre Serrao, and Lester Walker, with Osayi Endolyn. Foreword by Jessica B. Harris (Artisan, 304 pages). | Hardcover, Published Oct. 25, 2022
One of this year’s best art books is a “cookbook.” The eclectic, visually rich volume captures the multidisciplinary platform of Ghetto Gastro, the Bronx-based culinary collective of Jon Gray, Pierre Serrao, and Lester Walker. Through Black food and Black culture, Ghetto Gastro inspires conversations about race, history, and food inequality. In the book, 75 “mostly plant-based, layered-with-flavor recipes” are interspersed with compelling storytelling; striking photography; interviews with the likes of Thelma Golden, Emory Douglas, Theaster Gates, and the mothers of the three co-authors; and numerous works of art by a spectrum of artists, from Kerry James Marshall, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Paul Anthony Smith, Genevieve Gaignard, Henry Taylor, and David Drake, to Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Ibrahem Hasan, Sophia-Yemisi Adeyemo-Ross, Hugo McCloud, Raelis Vasquez, Awol Erizku, Hank Willis Thomas, and many, many more.

“Hurvin Anderson,” introduction by Courtney J. Martin, with contributions from Catherine Lampert, Roger Robinson, Jeff Alford, and Jordan Bosher (Rizzoli, 320 pages). | Hardcover, Published Oct. 25, 2022
A major monograph, “Hurvin Anderson” gathers more than two decades of lush interior and exterior scenes by one of the most highly regarded Black artists working today. Blending abstraction and figuration, British artist Hurvin Anderson paints transporting landscapes and spaces of familial, cultural, and communal significance, including barber shops, country clubs, and swimming pools, scenes informed by his Jamaican heritage and UK experiences. The work has brought acclaim and critical recognition. Anderson was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2017 and his work ranks among the most expensive by a living Black artist at auction. The fully illustrated volume features about 120 works, dating from 1997 to 2021, with an introduction by Courtney J. Martin and 15 poems by Roger Robinson, who won the 2019 T. S. Eliot Prize. An extensive essay by Catherine Lampert presents an overview of Anderson’s career, detailing the contours of his background, development of his practice, and roots of his serial themes.

“Henry Taylor, B Side,” Edited by Bennett Simpson, foreword by Johanna Burton, interview by Hamza Walker, with contributions by Wanda Coleman, Charles Gaines, Harmony Holiday, Bob Kaufman, Walter Price, Frances Stark, and Karon Davis (DelMonico Books/The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 237 pages). | Hardcover, Published Nov. 1, 2022
The exhibition catalog “Henry Taylor: B Side” was published on the occasion of Henry Taylor’s 30-year retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the artist’s largest exhibition to date and the first career survey presented in his hometown of Los Angeles. A self portrait by Taylor graces the cover—the artist as Henry V, Taylor as the artist king. The painting is one of many portraits and candid moments illustrated in the book, offering an in-depth view of Taylor’s universe and the richly colored, loosely rendered, bluesy approach to figuration for which he is known. The selections include paintings of family, friends, fellow artists, athletes, historic figures, and Taylor’s neighbors, whom he painted during the pandemic; his Camarillo Drawings (circa 1985-95), sketches the artist made of patients when he worked at Camarillo State Mental Hospital, shown in a museum for the first time; and painted and collaged objects, such as cigarette packs, cereal boxes, and a variety of other kinds of boxes. More than 160 works dating from circa 1992 to 2022 are featured and further illuminated by essays and a two-part conversation between Taylor and Hamza Walker, from 2017 and 2022.
“In the old days of the 45 rpm vinyl single, the B side was often a toss off minor key experiment…Needless to say, Taylor’s exhibition is full of A-sides, too—paintings that are powerful, considered, and beloved–even as it contains rarities. But one thinks this isn’t the artist’s point. He may intend B Side in an allusive sense. B Side as in the side not always heard or seen. B-side as in the back side or Black side.” — Exhibition Curator Bennett Simpson

“Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces,” edited by Thomas (T.) Jean Lax and Lilia Rocio Taboada in collaboration with Linda Goode Bryant, with interview by Thelma Golden, and contributions from Eric Booker, Brandon Eng, Kellie Jones, Yelena Keller, Marielle Ingram, and Legacy Russell (Museum of Modern Art, New York/The Studio Museum in Harlem, 183 pages). | Softcover, Published Nov. 1, 2022
“Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces” was published on the occasion of the exhibition of the same name at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The show pays tribute to a storied gallery space with a profound legacy of serving pivotal figures early in their careers, including artists David Hammons, Senga Nengudi, Lorraine O’Grady, and Howardena Pindell. Established by Linda Goode Bryant in 1974, Just Above Midtown (JAM) was a solution to a problem. Black artists were largely shut out of New York City galleries and museums, leaving few options for showing their work. Fed up with hearing her artist friends repeatedly lament, “They won’t let us,” Bryant decided to open a space of their own with limited resources beyond vision, determination, and credit cards. The fully illustrated catalog is a historian’s dream. Images of artists and artwork shown at JAM are featured along with documentary photos, archival documents, and essays by Kellie Jones and exhibition curator Thomas (T.) Jean Lax. Based on JAM records, an extensive timeline chronicles for the first time the exhibitions, film screenings, performances and other programming presented at JAM’s three locations. Oral histories with members of the JAM community were conducted during the development of the exhibition and quotes from the interviews are highlighted throughout the publication. A conversation between Bryant and Thelma Golden, titled “Can JAM be JAM at MoMA,” opens the volume.
“JAM was an autonomous Black space because it was about our ideas, our visions, our creativity, the things we made, the things we felt, the relationships we created that supported us as individuals and collectively.” — Linda Goode Bryant

“Black Orpheus: Jacob Lawrence and the Mbari Club,” Edited by Kimberli Gant and Ndubuisi Ezeluomba (Yale University Press, 228 pages). | Hardcover, Published Nov. 15, 2022
Jacob Lawrence may likely be the most studied African American artist of any period, making his under-studied connections to Africa that much more fascinating. The exhibition “Black Orpheus: Jacob Lawrence and the Mbari Club” presents Lawrence‘s little-known Nigeria series (1964-65), sheds light on his associations with his contemporaries from the Global South, and introduces the Mbari Artists & Writers Club in Nigeria and its publication, Black Orpheus (1957–67). Edited by co-curators Kimberli Gant and Ndubuisi Ezeluomba, the fully illustrated catalog features nine essays exploring Lawrence in Nigeria, the history of Black Orpheus, Brazilian artists in Black Orpheus, women in the Mbari Club, modern Nigerian art, and Leslie King Hammond’s insights about African American artists in Africa (1853-1977), among other topics.

“Firelei Baez: to breathe full and free,” edited by David Norr, interviews by Thelma Golden and Eva Respini, with contributions from Carla Acevedo-Yates, Mark Godfrey, and Legacy Russell (Gregory R. Miller & Co., 255 pages). | Hardcover, Published Nov. 29, 2022
Firelei Baez: to breathe full and free” is the first major publication dedicated to multidisciplinary artist Firelei Báez, who is known for her large-scale map paintings. Born in the Dominican Republic and based in New York, her heritage is both Dominican and Haitian. Her background is foundational to her work, from the mythic figures, imagined realms, and diasporic histories she explores to the exuberant palette she employs reflecting the lush flora and fauna of the DR. The fully illustrated volume showcases individual paintings, more than 150 works on paper, and installation views of a variety of projects, including “Firelei Báez: Bloodlines” at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (2015-16), her Watershed commission at ICA Boston (2021), and Museum of Modern Art window installation (2018-19). Texts include contributions by Mark Godfrey, Carla Acevedo-Yates, and Legacy Russell, and two engrossing conversations with Báez, one conducted by Thelma Golden, the other by Eva Respini. CT
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Christopher E. Harrison says:
Jan 3, 2023
Thank you for the article. A great listing of impactful documents on the African diasporic experience!!!
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