Painting Name: Black Children Keep Your Spirits Free (1972)
Artist name : Carolyn Lawrence
On initial sight of the painting Black Children Keep Your Spirits Free,1972 by the artist Carolyn Lawrence, it jumps at you with a bold range of colors. The acrylic paints provide vibrant edges and help separate the painting into sections without breaking off of the bigger image. It looks to be a compilation of six human figures doing different actions. Attention can be drawn to the most frontal positioned girl using a drum-like instrument. The various bright colors along the clothing bring the eyes toward the face. One can describe the colors to move from left to right. Many of the brighter colors can be seen more towards the right side of the painting compared to the left side. This could be on purpose judging by the palette of colors from one side to the other. The text spread out through the background say “Keep Your Spirits Free” move around the figures like a stream of water filling up the empty space. Along the top-side of the painting, there are stripes filling in the “sky” and what can be described as North America and Africa. This plays into the composition that could imply the influence from both countries. Each figure is performing a different action and seem to reflect off of “black” culture. The varying colors of the text is like a riot of something. If it were in a more plain text, the words would’ve probably lost it’s eye candy from repetitiveness. The artist most likely only painted the words “Black Children” once in the center because it draws the least amount of attention yet the most when observing the different elements piece together when stepping back for a bigger picture. The painting spans 48 1/2″ x 50 1/2″ x 5 1/4″ and is displayed with the Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. The scale of the painting helps bring out the colors as well as the text for a greater comprehension. The smaller details are easier to spot and the artist did a good job filling in the what would have been empty space with color and subtle meaning like the colored silhouettes of two countries.
Overall, this painting brings various elements together with color mainly. As observed, the palette of colors move slowly over the painting as the figures stand out yet blend into the words of “Keep Your Spirits Free” In the description of the exhibit, the artists step out to tackle on unjust social conditions by making art. This painting particularly show some insight that black people have culture and are just as human as everyone else in the world.
Art History 1010
Brooklyn museum exhibit “Soul of a Nation” was a collection of black artists works from the 1960s to 1980s. Allowing the viewer to see the violence, riots, and hate crimes that black Americans experienced during those times. To me, the “The Soul of a Nation” had two artists that were very contradictory.
On one hand, artist Faith Ringgold had a belief that “artists have the job of documenting their times”. Living her quote, she had created several political posters for groups that advocated “black power”, during the 1960s. One of her most widely spread political posters was the, “United states of Attica”, which has shortly published after a riot had broken out at a prison in upstate. Attica prison cost 40 people their lives. “United states of Attica”, political posters is a map of the United States divided diagonally, into four sections using green and red colors. This style and color relates to the Marcus Garvey’s “Black Nationalist Black Flag”. Alongside, Ringgold added dates of violence, murders, and racial injustice through all of america. Ringgold was able to paint all of the suffer and the racial injustice in the past 200 years.
Contradictory, the work or Roy DeCarava is lot less of “get in your face”and rather a smooth and approachable black and white tones what display casual everyday life. DeCarava, wanted to take away from the main subject and take photo of people at their back or side and display abstract images. In “couples walking”, DeCarava choose to take the photo of the couple from the back took away from the views to choice in subject but rather forced to see the couples romance. “When you see me comin’ raise your window high”is a zoom out view of a typical Brooklyn apartment building, this generalized illustration shows casual everyday community and resilience.
Brooklyn museum also offered and amazing experience that brought you back to the Egyptian civilization. Ancient Egyptian art contained a lot of symbolize such as, the lotus flower symbolizing rebirth from the sandstone “Fragment of Inscribed Door Lintel”. This inscription depicts the wife and husband reeving drink and lotus offering from a priest. Other works depicting a gift of land in “Donation Stela”. The main subject is placed in the center of the limestone block and is surrounded by other figures that are facing him. These figures are handing and item up towards the main figure, depicting a gift a land. Ancient Egyptian art had a symbolization and storytelling.
The entire Egyptian exhibition was really beautiful, it consisted of a lot of sculptures and models of Egyptian life and objects. The artwork that captured my eye immediately in the midst of all the others was, the Statue of Queen Ankhnes-meryre II and Her Son, Pepy II (author Unknown). The Sculpture is of a Queen (Ankhnes) holding her son, Pepy II. Immediately the size of both is noticeable as Queen Ankhnes is at least three times the size of Pepy II. Pepy II is on Ankhnes’ lap and facing East, as Ankhnes is facing North. The size could be a symbol of how powerful the mother-role was as she would serve as not only the domestic role but also as a protector of the future generations of Kings/Queens. Her role as a protector can be observed as Pepy II “clasps” her hand, clasping being a sign of reassurance and presence of one and their protection. Pepy II’s feet also are on a block almost half the size of his mother, this could further represent his King stature and how he will always be on some sort of pedestal in relation to the other Egyptians. The direction in which they’re facing can symbolize how they own have their own focuses or visions- the Queen ensuring that she’s fulfilling her role as a mother to nurse her child and still “act as regent” and Pepy II, facing his own direction can symbolize his priorities or focus of being “king as a small child”. The fact that he was king so young can also be another reason as for why he is so small in comparison to his mother, since he is not yet very powerful. It is made out of Egyptian alabaster which has a yellowish-brown town. Alabaster is very easy for drawing and carving. The neutrality in color could show that maybe there was no large gap in importance nor dominance between the two at that specific time- in Egypt Red usually symbolized Males and their dominance, and Yellow was normally used for Women. Or the lack of color can simply show us that there may have been a lack of color resources for art when this was made.
In Soul of a Nation there were very colorful paintings, some very colorful some abstract, some very simplistic, but all with a very powerful message. The artwork that seized my attention was the mahogany sculpture, “Black Unity” by Elizabeth Catlett. The sculpture is very large and is simply a sculpted closed fist, which has been established for unity- especially Black unity. The size of the sculpture is very big, which could represent a unity in activism for Black rights as many have come together to stand up for and reclaim their rights, especially in the last 50 or so, years. The use of making the fist Mahogany, a very deep brown, can be a literal representation of a Black hand. The sculpture is placed on top of a white square base, which could be used for contrast- to make the fist stand out greatly amongst everything else, almost as negative space- or simply for positioning, to re-imagine a world where Blacks are no longer subjected nor inferior to whites. The significance of this fist can extend largely, as it can be intended for an audience of whites as well, and make them feel powerless or serve as a reminder to make them remotely aware of racial injustices that have occured. When I was at the exhibit, I witnessed a lot of people, but a majority were white or tourists. Making this sculpture so big and noticeable, even the placement of it being in the middle of the floor with all the other artwork surrounding it can be a stamp or symbol for Black power and make everyone, especially the white people aware, as it is something you can’t miss nor ignore.
The Soul of A Nation exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum was extremely powerful and moving. Much of the work focused on discrimination and oppression that African Americans have had to face, as well as how many overcame it. There were many photographs, paintings, and creations, but the thing that caught my attention the most was actually one of the smaller creations. Titled “Traditional Hang Up”, it is a piece by artist and activist John Outterbridge and was part of his Containment Series of 1969. Outerbridge’s Containment Series was a collection of art that depicted how African Americans and the lifestyle they carried was very contained. They were restricted from any upward mobility due to legal segregation laws, and were forced to live in subpar conditions.
The sculpture itself, is a metal T-shape with the American flag going across the top, and circular metal fragments going down the bottom. This piece was very intriguing to me because it was up to each individual to interpret the meaning. On the card next to the work, the only information available is the artist, and the collection that the art is part of. The way I interpreted this piece was that our country had progressed so far at the expense of African Americans and immigrants in general. The circular fragments of metal running down the T-shape resemble skulls, and they are what’s holding up the American flag. To me, this symbolized all the deaths and selfless sacrifices that had to occur, in order for our great nation to be in the place that it is.
I loved walking through the Soul of the Nation exhibit. The colors or lack thereof used by the artists really told a story which evokes hardship and pride. The artwork by Benny Andrews, Did the Bear Sit Under a Tree? really caught my eye. The use of the material in his artwork really brings the painting to life. The zipper the artist used for his mouth makes it feel like you can hear his words of protest. Yet, the character is not all talk, his hands are so action oriented ready to take a stand for he knows is true. The artists purposely used flag which is rolled up fabric as the victim for the character’s fists to show that the one thing that’s meant to protect us is failing to do so. The art seemed so powerful and full of emotion.
Another piece of artwork that caught my attention was Wadsworth A. Jarrell’s Revolutionary painting, which can be found at the Soul of a Nation Exhibition located in the Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Gallery. The reason that I choose this particular painting over the other art works such as The First One Hundred Years is due to the beautiful warm colors, and the slight use of cold colors that the artist used in the painting. I found his diverse use of colors clever since black people are always referred to as colored people, but instead of portraying it as something bad and something to be ashamed off Jarrell portrays it as something beautiful and something that black people should embrace and be proud of. From a distance the painting seems to represent a figure of a man or woman but once I walked towards the painting and got a closer look I was able to notice that the figure in the painting was actually made up of words and phrases. Some of the words and phrases that make up the figure of the person in the painting are “Revolution”, “Black”, “Resistor”, “I have given my life to the struggle”, and “If I have to lose my life in the struggle that is the way it will have to be”. After observing these and many other phrases that can be found within the painting I was able to draw the conclusion that Jarrell was trying to represent and convey the idea of Black Power in his art work.
After doing some research about the painting I was able to learn that the figure that was created by the words and phrases in the painting is Angela Davis. Angela Davis was a professor and an activist of gender, race, and economic justice. The painting itself is a direct reference to a photograph of Davis at a rally during the 1970s. I was also able to learn that all the words and phrases used in the painting are fragments of speeches she had given before. Not only is Jarrell able to convey the idea of lack power in his painting but by making it based of a female activist instead of a male activist he is also able to portray the idea of gender equality. Similar to Fred Wilson’s Grey Area (Brown Version), Jarrell uses a women in his artwork to show that they are equal to men not only in politics, but in other aspects of life as well.
Part 1: Art from the Ancient World
The first exhibition I went to was artwork from Ancient Egypt. This exhibit mostly had statues/statues and sculptures of different sizes. The art piece that stuck out to me is known as Statuette of a Male Deity (Old Kingdom, Dynasty 5, circa 2500-2350 B.C.E). This medium-sized statue stuck out to me most because of the marble-looking detail. Marble is my favorite type of print. This male statuette is light grey with black spots making it look like a marble print. The figure has a large wig and unusual clothing, which includes a penis sheath attached to a tied belt. This indicates that he is a deity. The identity of the statuette is undetermined. It’s known to either be done for either a temple or king’s tomb. This statue was the result of a royal workshop. It’s made of a very hard stone known as gneiss, a metamorphic rock. Its structure is a god’s strong, youthful body with muscles by the upper arms and chest, which reflects the ideal of the male form in Old Kingdom sculpture. The deity is in a standing position. He has a conventional pose, with his left leg advanced, hands by sides, chipped knife clasped in right hand, and his other hand is closed. His wig is plain & covers almost his whole forehead, long beard by his chin, has eyes with the eyelids a little closed, wide nose, and thick lips. The figure is standing against round-topped, plain, upright stone column that looks like a gravestone (stela). The condition of this statuette is the body is only to the knees, his right hand is broken, and his left elbow is chipped.
Part 2: Art from Soul of a Nation
The next exhibition I went to was Soul of a Nation, which showed art in the age of black power in the 20th century. These works of art were made between 1958-1983 during the fight for liberation, where African Americans experienced discrimination and racial violence at the hands of white citizens and the state. This area had many paintings on canvases that portrayed a lot of meaning. Specifically, in the artists of New York, the artwork that stood out to me was was by Benny Andrews, Did the Bear Sit Under a Tree?, 1969. This oil painting has an image of an African American man wearing a black and yellow boxed pattern shirt holding up his fists to the red, white, and blue with star drawings American flag, which is made of a sheet of rolled-up rough-looking fabric. The figure is a skinny African American man, has a straight face, and his mouth is made of a zipper. His shirt also appears to be made of a fabric because it stuck out of the painting. The texture used is a burlap bagging sack. Black paint was used for shadowing by his arms, shirt, and face. The painter colored outside the lines and has splatters of paint by the arms and the face. I chose this art piece because the 3D from the roll from the flag and his shirt stood out to me, it’s a painting from my hometown, and it had an important figurative meaning from the looks of it. This painting relates to this exhibition because of the use of the flag and the fist symbolizes Black solidarity. This work reflected the Civil Rights protests of the 1960s and it portrays “a black person who is shaking his fist at the very thing that is supposed to be protecting him [the flag] and that he’s operating under” (Andrews). This painting really showed me what the blacks were going through during that era because of the detailed unhappy expression on the figure’s face. They couldn’t rely on the American flag to protect them.
When looking at the section of Ancient Egyptian Art, many artworks were familiar to me from what we discussed and looked at in class. One piece I was drawn to was The Head of a Queen, which was made during the reign of Thutmose III. This piece is said to be from Lower Egypt. As we discussed in class, ancient civilizations loved making art pieces that depicted their rulers to demonstrate their power and reverence. This artwork shows how prominent the kingdom was in Egypt. The statue is made out of brown quartzite, which was probably used because of its availability and convenience. The queen is wearing a large headdress. As the description states, the headdress was designed to make it look like a huge vulture with spread wings were on both sides of her face. This symbolizes her importance and ruling over the area. Her big eyes symbolize how the queen will protect her people and should be revered. Lastly, I noticed the nose and chin are destroyed. This could be a sign of iconoclasm, when a person destroys others’ art, in this case, it could have been a foreigner from another country- showing their dislike for this ruler. In summation, this artwork is an excellent example of how ancient Egyptians respected their rulers.
When I strolled through the Soul Of The Nation exhibit, I realized that many artworks expressed the oppression faced by people of color. The artwork, Did The Bear Sit Under a Tree, by Benny Andrews, caught my attention because of its honesty and rawness so I, consequently, chose to analyze it. The first thing I realized was how rough, messy, and aggressive the lines were in the painting. Andrews said that he chose to use oil paint to retain rawness in the art piece. Furthermore, the rough texture symbolized the place he came from. From where he came, everything was rough – from the fabrics people used to the clothes they wore. That is why he chose to use a rough texture. The colors red, white, and blue were used to paint the American flag, and the color brown was used to represent the colored man. The man in the painting looks like he is rolling away the American flag. His firmly straight face and fisted hand give him an angry appearance. The caption next to the picture states that this painting is a representation of a colored man during the civil rights movement “shaking his fist” at the flag which was supposed to protect him. In conclusion, I think that the painting successfully conveys the painter’s message. It clearly illustrates that the man is not happy with how the United States is treating colored people.
During my visit to the Brooklyn Museum I went to visit the Egyptian Galleries and I saw this piece of work that I thought was really cool because it didn’t look like it was complete and that mysterious aspect enticed me. This piece was carved onto stone and it looks to have a bunch of ancient Egyptian symbols. It seems to have 2 wealthy looking men or if not that seem to have 2 religious figures I figure that this might be the case because of the Headdresses that they are
wearing on their heads. On the left there is a eagle flying on top of the hat worn by the man. This is one of the parts that I think are interesting because there seems something that these guys are staring at that is not on this piece that makes me wonder if it is incomplete. Another thing that I noticed is that the 2 people on the left are look intensely at each other they are both holding these rods and holding them close to each other. The Symbols on this piece are also missing near the top it looks like this piece was breaking down before it was taken to the museum.
This piece really spoke to me because it really shows off the culture that we have grown accustomed to in America. The colors on this piece are really vibrant and they really pop out and that was one of the things that really caught my eye. The words in the background seem to be conveying a theme and message that we are free and we should be able to convey our feelings however we chose to. This piece really relates to the rest of the exhibition because a lot of these pieces were really colorful and used a great variety of colors and they all seem to want to portray black culture for what it was and not what people said it was. This exhibition was great because I was able to see many different types of art they all had a different way of showing social aspects of black history and showed things from their perspective.
I chose Dana C. Chandlers, Fred Hampton’s Door. The formal properties we are suppose to look at are scale, medium, composition, and material. We don’t know the scale but the medium is acrylic paint on wood. Next is composition which there are 7 elements of. Color, form, shape, space, value, line, and texture. The color is forrest green, bright red, coppery brown, white and dull blue. The form is three dimensional. The shape is the shape of a door (with a nob and everything). I guess there’s a high value? The lines of the door are sharp with clean edges (horizontal and vertical). The scruff marks are also sharp. Lastly the texture is ruff because of the splintering wood.
The historical context is the original was created in 1970 while the one we see today was created in 1975. A second one was needed because the first one was stolen from the Boston exhibition. The second time Chandler used an actual door for a greater emotional impact. In 1967 Dana C. Chandler witnessed Boston police using violence to stop a peaceful protest. This even is what triggered his commitment to the Black Power Movement to effect social change. Fred Hampton’s Door 2 is a protest against the Chicago police’s killing of Fred Hampton. He was a young Black Panther who was shot in the head during a raid.
The subject matter is Art in the Age of Black Power. This door tells a tragic story of a life ended too short.
I chose this object because it was sort of hiding in the corner. It is what attracted me too it in the first place. Once I got a closer look and saw that it was a door I knew it was the one. Previously in my A.P Art class I had actually sculpted a door that can camouflage in my school. Then I read the little caption and… all that meaning behind one door is amazing. It had so much meaning that when it was originally stolen Dana C. Chandler actually made another one. Fred Hampton’s Door 2 relates to the rest of the exhibition because it is all about Black Power and how the blacks shouldn’t take this standing down. He commemorated a member of the Back Panther Party with his piece.