Black Aesthetic

Black Aesthetic

The Black Aesthetic is a cultural ideology that emerged in the United States during the 1960s, advocating for black separatism within the arts.

In 1968, the theorist Larry Neal asserted that Black arts were the "aesthetic and spiritual counterpart of the Black Power concept". He argued that young writers and artists should confront the contradictions stemming from the African-American experience of racism and marginalisation in the Western world.

At this pivotal moment in American politics, the development of a Black Aesthetic was deemed essential for shaping an African-American identity. Artists were urged to establish a new aesthetic that stood in opposition to the prevailing white Western norms, all while staying connected to their black communities. Early artworks, often in the form of murals, tackled social issues and aimed to mobilise local black communities. These works were vibrant, rich with symbolic imagery, and frequently featured members of the black community, ranging from Jazz musicians to politicians.

Artists associated with the Black Aesthetic include those from the visual arts workshop, such as Dana Chandler, Gary Rickson, William Walker, Jeff Donaldson, Eugene Wade, Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarell, Barbara Jones-Hogu, and Gerald Williams, many of whom later formed AFRI-COBRA.

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Parra's studio, with Parra at the centre, his back to the camera as he works on the large painting takes centre stage, showing a faceless blue woman in a striped dress, painted in red, purple, blue and teal. The studio is full of brightly coloured paints, with a large window on the right and a patterned rug across the floor under the painting.