“American Art in Dialogue with Africa and its Diaspora” at Smithsonian American Art Museum

October 4 & 5 , 2013
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

Since the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade, Africa has played an important—albeit shifting, contested, and often unseen—role in the history of art of the United States. American artists of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds with various agendas have imagined and depicted Africa and African peoples in their work or turned to African cultures and art objects for inspiration. Anthropologists and art historians have scrutinized African American visual production in search of cultural retentions, while many modern and contemporary black and Latino artists have alternately highlighted or occluded reference to Africa or African diasporic cultures in their work. Artists from the US who have traveled to the continent or engaged firsthand with international African diasporic communities have often found themselves and their work altered by these experiences in significant and unexpected ways. More recently, globalization has facilitated multi-directional exchange and brought contemporary artists from Africa and its diaspora increasingly into contact with the mainstream US art scene. This symposium examines the role of Africa and its diaspora in the development of art of the United States, from nineteenth-century portraiture to American modernism; from the Harlem Renaissance to the contemporary art world.

The embedded video features welcoming remarks by Elizabeth Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and Johnetta Cole, Director, National Museum of African Art—please click here to view all of the symposium sessions on YouTube.