Abstractionist Aesthetics: Artistic Form and Social Critique by Phillip Brian Harper

By Phillip Brian Harper

In an incredible reassessment of African American tradition, Phillip Brian Harper intervenes within the ongoing debate concerning the “proper” depiction of black humans. He advocates for African American aesthetic abstractionism—a representational mode wherein an art, instead of striving for realist verisimilitude, vigorously asserts its primarily man made personality. protecting that realist illustration reaffirms the very social proof that it could actually were understood to problem, Harper contends that abstractionism exhibits up the particular constructedness of these evidence, thereby subjecting them to serious scrutiny and making them amenable to transformation.

Arguing opposed to the necessity for “positive” representations, Abstractionist Aesthetics displaces realism because the basic mode of African American representational aesthetics, re-centers literature as a imperative web site of African American cultural politics, and elevates experimental prose in the area of African American literature. Drawing on examples throughout a number of creative construction, together with the visible paintings of Fred Wilson and Kara Walker, the tune of Billie vacation and Cecil Taylor, and the prose and verse writings of Ntozake Shange, Alice Walker, and John Keene, this booklet poses pressing questions about how racial blackness is made to imagine sure social meanings. within the strategy, African American aesthetics are upended, rendering abstractionism because the strongest modality for Black illustration.

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71 On the contrary, while Beecroft professes to be “interested in whatever happens during the performance,” she admits that this is so only once she “accept[s] that the formation is going to break apart” (to quote her directly) and despite the fact that those developments Black Personhood in the Maw of Abstraction ||| 53 21  Vanessa Beecroft, VB35, —­Show, Solomon R. al. Photograph by Armin Linke. Copyright © 2015 Vanessa Beecroft. Reproduced by permission of the artist. ”72 Completely disregarding any extracompositional meaning that the performers’ bodies might register, and attending instead to each performance’s descent from regimented order into random chaos, these statements clearly constitute an attempt by Beecroft to frame her works as purely formal events, thereby recalling Ford’s characterization of Gucci’s and Prada’s all-­white runway-­show casts as mere—­politically innocent—­aesthetic constructs.

5 cm). Copyright © Estate of Agnes Martin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Gift of the artist and the publisher, Parasol Press, Ltd. A. Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY. S. territorial expansion makes clear. If the grid is thus revealed to be a veritable agent of the abstraction it seems only to emblematize, its function in this regard is evident in the history of “abstract” art itself, within which domain it is a well-­nigh-­ ubiquitous presence (fig.

Than—­that achieved in VB39, in that here, rather than serving to relieve the scene’s predominating whiteness, the performers’ bodies themselves comport with the surrounding environment and so help to establish the prevailing paleness of the compositional field. S. context—­fundamentally racial. Additionally, though, the social institution that VB35 indexes bears an import quite different from that of the military culture that inevitably informs VB39, as it is founded entirely on a principle of aspiration in which racialized genericism is itself a central stake.

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