"The Black Athletic Body in Contemporary Art"
In the American context, sport has always been more than a demonstration of athleticism or skill. Many art historians have studied the links between athletics and aesthetics, looking specifically at how discourses of masculinity converged with artistic expression in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Yet, in most cases, any analysis of masculine identity inspired by these works remains largely white, middle-class, and heterosexual. This lecture shifts the discourse around sports and fine arts to ask how and to what ends issues of race, gender, and sexuality intersect in images of black athletes. Looking closely at the work of several artists from the nineteenth century photographs to the near present,I will demonstrate how the black athlete—particularly for black, male, queer artists—complicates our readings of these bodies. I will show how black contemporary artists specifically exploit the malleability of the image of masculinity to force a consideration of the dynamic nature of blackness itself.
Basquiat painted Defacement after fellow artist Michael Stewart was beaten to death by New York City police in September 1983. Originally painted on the wall of Keith Haring’s studio in the days after Stewart’s death, the painting is now privately owned and seldom displayed in public.
WCMA partnered with writer, activist, and Williams alumna Chaédria LaBouvier ’07 to bring the painting to campus. LaBouvier’s research frames Basquiat’s work within the context of contemporary social issues, such as black masculinity, racism, and police brutality. “This is the most topical painting in Basquiat’s body of work at the moment. When you remove the myth and iconography of Jean-Michel Basquiat and engage directly with this work, you see a 22-year-old struggling with the vulnerability of the black body, the limits of assimilation, and the idea of state violence as an American heritage,” says LaBouvier.
Thirty-three years after Basquiat painted Defacement, the work takes on new critical resonance. At a time when the reality of extrajudicial violence against black Americans is at the forefront of national conversations, Basquiat’s painting is a reminder of the long-standing history and continued reality of such violence.
Defacement will hang above the fireplace mantel as the focal point of WCMA’s historic Reading Room, part of the college’s first library. Installing the work in a domestically scaled space furnished as a living room, rather than in a traditional gallery, invites extended looking and offers a communal space for gathering. “As a campus museum, WCMA is committed to engaging with the critical issues of our time. With this powerful painting as its centerpiece, the reading room becomes a public platform to do just that. Defacement will catalyze a range of conversations about the many ways in which it continues to resonate in our contemporary social and political climate,” said Sonnet Coggins, WCMA’s Associate Director for Academic and Public Engagement.
To launch a series of public conversations hosted by a range of community and student groups and academic course meetings, LaBouvier will moderate a discussion on Thursday, November 10. The program brings together Pérez Art Museum Director Franklin Sirmans and Professor of Visual Studies at the California College of the Arts Jordana Saggese to discuss why this painting matters, what it meant in 1983, and what it means in 2016.
I am presenting a paper "“Between Capital and the Canon: The Case of Jean-Michel Basquiat" on the panel "Making a Killing: Art, Capital, and Value in the Twenty-first Century" chaired by Tom McDonough, State University of New York Binghamton University.
Location: Delaware Suite A, Lobby Level
Join me in New York for a conversation at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Other panelists include: Dr. David Clinton Wills, Kim Drew, and The Very Black Project.
Guests will present a #veryqueer #verybasquiat #verydiasporic #veryblack conversation on the life and legacy of Jean Michel-Basquiat. This program, created by NYU Africana Studies graduate students, Ja’nell Ajani and Ayanna Legros, explores and historicizes the cultural phenomena and life events that laid the foundation for Basquiat’s creative genius and his undeniable impact on African Diasporic communities across the globe.
This program is presented in collaboration with NYU Africana Studies, Basquiat: Still Fly @55, Welcome To Harlem, and The Black Connection.
PEN CENTER USA will host the 25th Annual Literary Awards Festival in Beverly Hills, where my book Reading Basquiat: Exploring Ambivalence in American Art will be awarded the UC Press Exceptional First Book Award.
The event will be hosted by Aisha Tyler. Honorees and Literary Award Winners include Francis Ford Coppola, John Kiriakou, ProPublica, Daniel Alarcón, Meghan Daum, McKenzie Funk, Noah Hawley, Victor Lodato,Graham Moore, Ainsley Morse and Peter Golub, Claudia Rankine, Jordana Moore Saggese, Robert Thomas, Leslye Walton, G. Willow Wilson.
Tickets can be purchased online here.
I will be presenting research for my new book (Game On: The Black Male Athlete in American Art and Visual Culture) as part of the International Symposium "Global History of Sport in the Cold War" at New York University. The symposium will be hosted by the NYU Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia and co-sponsored by the Cold War Project. My paper is titled: "The Black Athletic Body."
I have organized a panel "Step into the Arena: Visualizing Boxing and Wrestling in American Culture" for the Annual Meeting of the American Studies Association in Los Angeles. The panel includes papers by myself, Teresa Leininger-Miller (University of Cincinnati), Alma López (UCLA), and C. Richard King (Washington State University). Aaron Baker (Arizona State University) will moderate. My paper “The Greatest: Muhammad Ali and Black Sexuality in Contemporary American Art” will present my most recent research on the intersections of athletics and aesthetics in contemporary African American Art. For more information on the conference click here.
I will be traveling to the University of Texas at Austin in October to give a public lecture on my book Reading Basquiat: Exploring Ambivalence in American Art. During my time in Austin, I will also be speaking with graduate students enrolled in the Art History program's "Research & Methods" course.
Museum of the African Diaspora andUC Berkeley Art and Design Center present an evening of art, film and discussion on Thursday, May 14th.
The evening begins at 6pm at the Museum of the African Diaspora (685 Mission Street at Third) with a screening of the film Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child. Director Tamra Davis pays homage to her friend in this definitive documentary but also delves into Basquiat as an iconoclast. His dense, bebop-influenced neoexpressionist work emerged while minimalist, conceptual art was the fad; as a successful black artist, he was constantly confronted by racism and misconceptions. Much can be gleaned from insider interviews and archival footage, but it is Basquiat's own words and work that powerfully convey the mystique and allure of both the artist and the man.
Join us after the film screening for discussion of the work and legacy of Jean-Michel Basquiat. A panel of Bay Area artists and scholars -- Jennifer Gonzalez and Lewis Watts, moderated by Jordana Moore Saggese (author of the forthcoming Reading Basquiat: Exploring Ambivalence in American Art) -- will discuss the artist's impact on American art practice, his relationship to the always shifting discourses of blackness, and his precarious position as an artist whose celebrity has threatened to overshadow any critical attention. Special pre-release copies of Reading Basquiat will be on sale at the event!
This program is presented in conjunction with Third Thursdays in Yerba Buena: Art, Drink & Be Merry
Free Admission: Click here to reserve a seat for the film and panel discussion.
Join KQED and the University of California at Berkeley’s African American Studies department and History of Art Undergraduate Association for a special Black History Month event. Following a viewing of the museum’s collection of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Layla Ali, Sanford Biggers, Lyle Ashton Harris, Margo Humphrey, Rashid Johnson, Martin Puryear, Elisabeth Sunday and Fred Wilson, selections of the Basquait biopic The Radiant Child will be screened. Post-screening discussion panelists will include Jordana Moore Saggese, author of Reading Basquiat; artist Robbie Conal and professors UC Berkeley’s African American Studies department - See more at: http://alamedacounty10x10.org/events/afternoon-basquiat#sthash.zAumsZqj.dpuf