I just learned that many art critics call work that I grew up with (e.g. Larry Poncho Brown, WAK, Ernie Barnes) “black romantic” or kitsch. The definition relates to its unflinchingly idealistic view of black life and perceived lack of conceptual depth. I found this article on the 2002 Black Romantic show at the Studio Museum in Harlem revealing about the dialogue (or lack thereof) between this niche and the mainstream commercial art world. However simplistic the work seems, black people building a revisionist, affirmative mythology has a history of being revolutionary (see: the Black Panthers, Sun Ra, early hiphop). Personally I enjoy reflecting on this tension - it’s ripe for exploring the racial dynamics behind who gets to define what is or isn’t art. Message!
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