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Celebrating a New Book by Samantha Noël: Tropical Aesthetics of Black Modernism
Tropical Aesthetics of Black Modernism examines the creative manifestations of black modernism, and explicates how tropicality functioned as a key unifying element in African Diasporic art. In this book, I argue that crucial artworks of the Caribbean modern art movement and of the Harlem Renaissance, as well as performance traditions ought not be viewed as being particular to their geopolitical parameters but rather as part of a larger African Diasporic mission. Given this reality, I contend that a discourse of internationalism existed in the realm of visual art and performance. By examining the art of Aaron Douglas and Wifredo Lam, as well as the performances of Josephine Baker, Maya Angelou and early twentieth-century Carnival masqueraders in Trinidad, I explicate how their representations of tropicalia are reflective of the unique yet complex relationship that black people of these respective regions have with the terrain they inhabit – land on which many of the enslaved ancestors labored. Despite this traumatic legacy, these creative works nonetheless show how this land is revered by their inhabitants who recognize them for their beauty, not with any intention to transform it but rather to accept it. Ultimately, this book seeks to illuminate the desire for early twentieth-century black Atlantic peoples to engender a sense of belonging to the citizenry, and a particular kind of claim to the land that they inhabit, which speaks to a desire for home.

Samantha A. Noël is an Associate Professor of Art History and the Hawkins Ferry Endowed Chair in Modern and Contemporary Art at Wayne State University. She received her B.A. in Fine Art from Brooklyn College, C.U.N.Y., and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Art History from Duke University. Her research interests revolve around the history of art, visual culture and performance of the Black Diaspora. She has published on black modern and contemporary art and performance in journals such as Small Axe, Third Text, and Art Journal.

Feb 16, 2022 06:30 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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