Black Male Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art By Thelma Golden et al

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8vo. pp. 223, [1]. many illus. (some colour). wrs. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, Distributed by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., [1994].


Black Male is the catalog for what was a major and somewhat controversial exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In her introductory essay, curator Golden explains that she used "five historic signposts" to guide her study of the evolution of images of African American men in the years following the civil rights movement. The first was the aggressive and rampantly sexual look of the black power era, followed by blaxploitation films, the tragic "endangered" status of black men in America, the rise of rap and hip-hop, and the "video-imaging" of such high-profile tragedies as the Rodney King incident, the Clarence Thomas hearings, Magic Johnson's AIDS confession, and O. J. Simpson's arrest and indictment. Golden and her contributors, including Henry Louis Gates Jr., Ed Guerrero, Bell Hooks, and Andrew Ross, discuss the irony and danger of stereotypes; the implications of various perceptions of black masculinity; black men in films; and iconographic public figures from Malcolm X to Michael Jordan. The artworks themselves include paintings, photographs, sculptures, and movie stills by such artists as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leon Golub, Spike Lee, Robert Mapplethorpe, Gordon Parks, Alison Saar, and Lorna Simpson. While this catalog is long on commentary and short on art, it is, without a doubt, stimulating and important. Donna Seaman