New Scholarship in African American Art History
The 2018 Evelyn Kranes Kossak Symposium
Friday November 2, 2018
9:30 am – 6:00 pm
Roosevelt House, Hunter College
47-49 East 65th Street
New York, NY, 10065
In conjunction with the exhibition Acts of Art and Rebuttal in 1971,at Hunter College’s Leubsdorf Gallery, the Department of Art and Art History is hosting a day-long symposium devoted to recent scholarship in African-American Art History. Acts of Art and Rebuttal revisits the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition’s stance against Whitney Museum’s Contemporary Black Artists in America show, and the exhibition they helped organize in response at Acts of Art, a small, artist-run gallery in Greenwich Village. The Acts of Art exhibition Artists in Rebuttal to the Whitney Museum: Black Artists in Rebuttal spoke to issues of identity, visibility, and the politics of representation. Those issues continue to engage both critical art histories of African American Art in the postwar period, and current art practice.
9:45 Welcome and Introductory Remarks: Howard Singerman
10:00 Valerie Cassel Oliver, Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
The Evidence of Things Seen: Preserving the Historical Narratives of African American Art
11:00 LeRonn P. Brooks, assistant professor in the Department of Africana Studies at Lehman College, City University of New York
On Continuity and Being in the Practice of Art History
12:00 Break for Lunch
12:45 Tour of Acts of Art and Rebuttal in 1971 at the Leubsdorf Gallery
1:30 Cheryl Finley, associate professor in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell University
Art, Activism and Performance: Bearden, Baraka, Bailey
2:30 Tobias Wofford, assistant professor in Department of Art History, Virginia Commonwealth University
“The Biggest Family Reunion”: Air Travel, Roots, and Returns in FESTAC’77
3:30 Cherise Smith, chair and associate professor of African and African Diaspora Studies, and Executive Director of the Galleries at Black Studies, University of Texas at Austin
An Auspicious Year
4:30 Bridget Cooks, associate professor in the Department of African American Studies and Department of Art History at the University of California Irvine
The Black Index
5:30 Roundtable wrap-up
6:00 Reception in the Roosevelt House Four Freedoms Room
The New Scholarship in African American Art History symposium is made possible by the Evelyn Kranes Kossak Professorship. Additional funding is provided by the American Chai Trust.
Valerie Cassel Oliver is the Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Prior to her position at the VMFA, she served as Senior Curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston from 2000 to 2017. Among the exhibitions she organized during her tenure at the CAMH are the acclaimed Double Consciousness: Black Conceptual Art Since 1970 (2005); Cinema Remixed & Reloaded: Black Women Artists and the Moving Image Since 1970 with Dr. Andrea Barnwell Brownlee (2009); a major retrospective on Benjamin Patterson, Born in the State of Flux/us (2010); and Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art (2012). Her 2018 debut exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was a 50-year survey of work by Howardena Pindell entitled Howardena Pindell: What Remains to be Seen. The exhibition is co-organized with Naomi Beckwith, the Manilow Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and will travel through 2019.
Dr. LeRonn P. Brooks is an assistant professor in the Department of Africana Studies at Lehman College of the City University of New York. He is a curator for The Racial Imaginary Institute founded in 2016 by poet and MacArthur Fellow Claudia Rankine. His interviews, essays, and poetry have appeared in publications for Bomb Magazine, The Studio Museum in Harlem The Museum of Modern Art, Socrates Sculpture Park, The Spelman Museum of Art, The International Review of African American Art, as well as The Aperture Foundation, among others. He has received fellowships from the Cave Canem Foundation and the journal Callaloo. Dr. Brooks is the creator and executive-producer of Culture/Context, an online conversation series currently featuring major contemporary artists.
Dr. Cheryl Finley is associate professor of Art History at Cornell University. She holds a Ph.D. in African American Studies and the History of Art from Yale University. An art historian, curator and contemporary art critic, Dr. Finley has contributed essays and reviews to Aperture, Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, American Quarterly and Artforum. Her prolific critical attention to photography has produced the coauthored publications Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story; Harlem: A Century in Images; and Diaspora, Memory, Place: David Hammons, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Pamela Z. This year she has published Committed to Memory: the Art of the Slave Ship Icon (Princeton, 2018) and My Soul Has Grown Deep: Black Art from the American South (Yale, 2018). A specialist in the art market, Dr. Finley’s current project is Black Market: Inside the Art World, about the work of Black artists in the global art economy, focusing on the relationship among museums, curators, biennials and tourism.
Dr. Tobias Wofford is an assistant professor in the Department of Art History at Virginia Commonwealth University. His research explores the meeting of globalization and identity in the art of the African Diaspora since the 1950s. Wofford’s writing has appeared in catalogues for a number of exhibitions including Postwar: Art between the Pacific and the Atlantic and Melvin Edwards: Five Decades, as well as in such journals as Art Journal and Third Text. His research has been supported by fellowships from the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Terra Foundation for American Art. Wofford is currently working on a book-length manuscript that examines the multifaceted role of Africa in contemporary African American art.
Dr. Cherise Smith is associate professor of African and African Diaspora Studies and Art History, and chair of the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She specializes in American art after 1945, especially as it intersects with the politics of identity, race, and gender. She is the author of Enacting Others: Politics of Identity in Eleanor Antin, Nikki S. Lee, Adrian Piper, and Anna Deavere Smith (Duke, 2011), which examines how identity is negotiated in performance art in which women artists take on the characteristics and manners of a racial, ethnic, and gender “other.” Her manuscript Michael Ray Charles: Studies in Blackness—the first book-length monograph on the artist—is in production with the University of Texas Press. She has published essays in Art Journal, American Art, and exposure among other venues. As Executive Director of the Art Galleries at Black Studies, Dr. Smith spearheads an initiative to expand UT’s holdings of art and material collections relating to people of African descent.
Dr. Bridget R. Cooks fills a joint appointment in the Department of African American Studies and the Department of Art History. Cooks's research focuses on African American art and culture, Black visual culture, museum criticism, film, feminist theory and post-colonial theory. In 2002 she earned her doctorate degree in the Visual and Cultural Studies Program at the University of Rochester. She has received a number of awards, grants, and fellowships for her work, including the prestigious James A. Porter & David C. Driskell Book Award in African American Art History for her book Exhibiting Blackness: African Americans and the American Art Museum (Massachusetts, 2011), and the Henry Luce Dissertation Fellowship in American Art. She is currently completing a second book, A Dream Deferred: Art of the Civil Rights Movement and the Limits of Liberalism. Cooks has also curated several exhibitions of African American art including The Art of Richard Mayhew at the Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, 2009-2010.