RHAPSODIES IN BLACK by Richard J. Powell


Art of the Harlem Renaissance
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 A handsomely illustrated and provocative investigation of the accomplishments of black American artists, including actors, singers, painters, photographers, and sculptors, during the 1920s and '30s. While the book is meant to accompany an exhibit that has opened in London and will travel to the US, Powell (Art History/Duke Univ.) and Bailey (director of the African and Asian Artists' Archive/Univ. of East London) have produced something more than a catalog: The essays collected here are ambitious and decidedly controversial, and favor very focused inquiries (on black theater, on Josephine Baker's impact on the black image in white media, and on Paul Robeson's struggles to define what it meant to be a black artist) rather than chronological summaries. Those looking for an overview of the Harlem Renaissance will not find it here. But the reader will find some interesting ruminations on the origins and nature of a distinctly African-American art and some stunning work, including vibrant street scenes by Archibald Motley and Edward Burra, a portfolio of crisp, vibrant photographs of Harlem by James VanDerZee, and the vigorous, folk-influenced paintings of Jacob Lawrence. (150 color plates, 100 b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-520-21263-0
Page count: 200pp
Publisher: Univ. of California
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1997


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