The Black Power Movement Essay

1700 words - 7 pages

Sometimes referred to as “the artistic sister of the Black Power Movement” the Black Arts Movement (BAM) arose in the mid 1960’s to develop a poetic/artistic statement that not only provided a means of black existence in America, but also provided a “change of vision” in the perception of African American identity. Much like the New Negro Movement, the Black Arts Movement was a flourishing time of artistic exertion among African American musicians, poets, playwrights, writers, and visual artists who understood that their artistic production could be the key to revising stereotypes of African American subordinacy (Neal). Through looking at the enriching artworks by David Hammons, Jeff Donaldson, and Adrian Piper, it can be understood that the African American race strived for both racial equality and social change. Hammons, Donaldson, and Piper were unique artist who changed African American Art and captivated America through their exceptional styles of talent and artworks. While the artworks Spade (Power to the Spade) by David Hammons, Wives of Shango by Jeff Donaldson, and Adrian Piper’s advertisement in Village Voice share few commonalities such as similar subject matter, such as their strive for black power, and imagery, their differences in mediums, structural styles, and technique show differentiating aspects of each artworks physique.
Artists associated with the Black Arts Movement promoted the notion that art should serve the needs of the African American community, while challenging white hegemony and the oppression of African Americans (Wofford). Despite having similar, yet thoughtful views on black supremacy, much like that of authors from the New Negro Movement, the “Black Power Concept” of the Black Arts Movement had a contrasting view from African American Artist in the early twentieth century. Rather than creating artwork that encouraged white America to treat African Americans more positively, BAM artists were exclusively interested in improving black Americans' perception of themselves (Neal). The main goal most BAM artists had was to create a humanistic visual statement, that identified their problems, offered solutions to those problems, and educated viewers of their past, present, and future(Hogu). Hammons, Donaldson, and Piper each demonstrate a significant participation in the Black Arts Movement through their various artworks.
In David Hammons’ “Spade (Power to the Spade)”, Hammons literally uses his own body as a printing plate. Coating his skin with margarine and then pressing his greased body against the paper, Hammons signifies power through his body. Spade represents a scenario in which Hammons body is inscribed with the racist stereotype of the spade (Wofford 111). Hammons used his artwork as a medium for communication, being that the figures in his art were surrounded by a beguiling ambiguity. His use of imprints of the body was known to encourage viewers to imagine a presence that is not physically primitive, but...

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