ARTH 403
Clark Visiting Professor Seminar: Afro-Cosmopolitans 1935-1955 Spring 2023
Division I
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Class Details

Black modernism became a transnational formation during the 1940s in an era of anticolonial upheaval that witnessed the demise of the imperial world order. Reframing the midcentury period, which is often seen as a mere transition from Social Realism to Abstract Expressionism, we delve into the aesthetic innovations of African American, Caribbean, and African artists whose critical positionality on the politics of race aligned with the intellectual outlook of the Black Radical Tradition expressed by such thinkers as W.E.B DuBois and Richard Wright. As we track the choices by which Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett and others challenged the category of “folk art” in the Depression era, we explore how the vernacular Africanisms that Zora Neale Hurston and Katherine Dunham discovered in West Indian religions resonated with the cross-cultural concerns of Wifredo Lam in Cuba and Edna Manley in Jamaica. With Pierre Verger’s photographs of Afro-Brazilian rituals adding to our scope of inquiry, the seminar seeks to assemble a synthesis of interpretive approaches toward a deeper understanding of the abstraction produced by Ernest Mancoba in South Africa and by Aubrey Williams in post-war London.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 16
Expected: 16
Class#: 3633
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: research paper, class presentations
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: second-year graduate students, then first-year graduate students, then advanced undergraduate students; places for 8 undergraduate and 8 graduate students assured
Distributions: Division I
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ARTH 403 Division I ARTH 503 Division I

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