Saturday, May 4, 2013

Image of the Black in Western Art Symposium @ Yale

Yesterday, the poet Elizabeth Alexander and art historian Koben Mercer both of Yale University organized one of the most invigorating symposiums I ever attended. It went onall day, but the time seemed to have gone so quickly!  
David Bindman of University of London and Harvard spoke about the influential Image of the Black in Western Art series several volumes of which he co-edited with Henry Louis Gates of Harvard. Then there were Jeremy Tanner of University College, London, who talked about representations of blackness in the ancient world (mostly Greek), Paul Kaplan of Purchase College, SUNY, on the same subject but focusing on early modern Europe, and Suzanne Blier of Harvard who examined the published sources of African art sculpture on which Picasso based some of his more evocative, early figural abstractions. For his part Kobena Mercer gave an expansive account of  "Black Atlantic practices since 1980"--an impressive survey of four modes of address adopted by black artists in Europe, the Americas and Africa. The concluding panel discussion--chaired by artist and retired Princeton professor of history Nell Painter--included a re-examination of the work and life of the black, proto-feminist sculptor Edmonia Lewis, by Jennifer Brody of Stanford; my talk on contemporary African and African Diaspora art in the age of globalization; and a paper on the syncretic Caribbean modernism by Yale's Erica James
As if these were not enough, the erudite formal responses to the Tanner, Kaplan, Blier and Mercer lectures respectively by Yale's Emily Greenwood, Boston University's Allison Blakely, Katie Trumpener of Yale, and Columbia's Kellie Jones made the symposium a most memorable event. 
Elizabeth Alexander's Welcome note
David Bindman's introduction to the series

Paul Kaplan of Purchase College, SUNY speaks of Image of the Black in Early Modern Europe
Alexander and art historian Sarah Lewis
Second left: Art historian Erica James of Yale who spoke Caribbean art; Bindman (2nd right) and Mercer

Bindman with Kaplan; 2nd right, Yale graduate student Kristin Graves and partner  Emmanuel Okoli

Mercer and Tanner
Lewis, Mercer, Painter and moi

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