African American visual contemporary art is a realm of diverse forms; a culmination of paints, canvas, bronze, clay and found objects, along with snippets and fragments of media fused into pieces created from the imagination and from inspiration of expressions of the past. Black artists can choose to explore the generational undercurrent and socio-emotional mechanics of the challenges, oppression and history of Black American life, or create art that derives from nature, science, geometry—anything the mind can glean and morph—and create something new. The historical origin of African American and Black contemporary art is a vast and valuable representation of what arises from the inner deity: the ancestral and geological brilliance of Black people. Creativity helps the world see who our people are from within, and demystify and deconstruct stereotypes and misconceptions. These books offer a wonderful starting point.

“BLK ART: The Audacious Legacy of Black Artists and Models in Western Art,” by Zaria Ware | Harper Collins

Award-winning author Zaria Ware takes readers on a unique journey through the unbridled history of Western Black art. “Captivating and informative, BLK ART is an essential work that elevates a globally dismissed legacy to its proper place in the mainstream art canon,” notes Harper Collins. The book, divided into two categories—art and models—offers a comprehensive look into the presences, vitality and importance of artists and Black models; muses of many European art pieces. “BLK ART” is fresh and modern, and refreshingly centers Western art around Blackness, not the other way around.

“When We See Us: A Century of Black Figuration in Painting,” edited by Koyo Kouoh  | Thames & Hudson 

Published to accompany the Zeitz MOCAA, CapeTown museum’s incredible exhibition “When We See Us,” on view through September 2023, the book of the same title is a “landmark publication [that] accompanies an international touring exhibition devoted to Black figuration in painting from the 1920s to now, featuring artists from Africa and the African diaspora,” according to Zeitz MOCAA. It  reveals the profound need for global Black contemporary art from the native motherland with refinement “celebrating Black subjectivity and Black consciousness from Pan-African and Pan-Diasporic perspectives,” said Zeitz MOCAA.

“Souls Grown Deep like the Rivers: Black Artists from the American South,” by Maxwell L. Anderson, Raina Lampkins-Fielder and Paul Goodwin | Arc Art Books

“Souls Grown Deep like the Rivers” is a poignant, fascinating book that highlights and excavates an endearing story of a sleepy town in Wilcox County, Alabama, as “Art admirers from all over the world come to this patch of fertile soil in Alabama’s Black Belt to get a glimpse of the artistic legacy of four generations of Southern quilters,” said Arc Art Books. This all-Black town’s beautiful story of resilience and longevity lives within the generations who were born into the new ages and seasons of the American South. “Mostly left to themselves for nearly 100 years, this close-knit historically all-black community’s folkways and traditions survived well into the twentieth century and stand as a symbol of their resourcefulness during a time of great duress,” according to Arc Art Books.

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