Monday, August 29, 2011

Entry #7

Alain Locke, critic, philosopher, and intellectual leader of the Harlem Renaissance, called on black artists to seek their artistic roots in the traditional arts of Africa rather than in the art of white America or Europe. American painter, Romare Bearden, urged his fellow African-American artists to create works that were based upon their own cultural experiences.
  • Choose one of the paintings created by Harlem Renaissance artists featured on the page 383 of the textbook (Romare Bearden's Folk Musicians or Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series Panel #1).
  • In what ways does the artist of your chosen work answer Locke's call? (You may find necessary / helpful to view some traditional African art via the web in order to better address this question.)
  • How (specifically) does the artist reflect his own unique cultural experience?

Both of the works on page 383 are representation of a personal cultural experience. My favorite is the Folk Musicians, because I am partial to the "folk" style and the simplicity that particular style conveys.

At the time of Bearden did this painting (1941-42) the blues, whose roots ran deep in African- American culture, were popular.The blues originated on Southern plantations in the 19th Century and evolved from African spirituals, chants, work songs, field hollers, revivalist hymns, and country dance music. The blues reflected the struggle, sadness and injustice treatment of African Americans of this era. Bearden - a black man born in 1911 - would have been acutely aware of this part of his culture and paints from that perspective.
Likewise, it makes sense that Bearden painted musicians because he was a musician. He co-wrote the hit song Sea Breeze, which was recorded by Billy Eckstine and Dizzy Gillespie and is still considered a jazz classic.

Bearden protrays the men in suits which seems to indicate that they are preparing for or have just finished a performance. He placed the musicians outdoors in front of a brick wall which I think represents the many brick walls African Americans face in American culture. Our texts says " the juxtapostion of the rural background and the brick wall suggest the interchange between urban and rual in the lives and culture of African -Americans, many of whom left their small southern hometowns to seek opportunities in northern cities." I think Breaden also did this to remind viewer of the racial segregation of the era and the fact that, while white audiences liked to be entertained by African American performers, these performers often were not allowed to enter the building through the front door.

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