African American Art is loosely considered to be any visual art made by Americans of African descent. More specifically, it is art influenced by African American history and and experiences of African Americans. It can include paintings, basketweaving, potter, woodcarving, painting and even more modern mediums. African American Art is often recognizable by subject matter and style.
African American Art has its roots in slavery of Africans in the United States. Early African American Art was an extension of African Art in the countries the slaves were brought from. This art was made by individuals who were skilled artisans in Africa. Artifacts from the 1600s through 1800s are in the form of drums, quilts, wrought iron pieces and ceramics. African Americans began to paint in the late 1700s and early 1800s as white abolitionists began to patronize and encourage them in the arts. Very skilled African Slaves were able to buy their freedom using their art.
African American art was first recognized after the civil war. Successful African American artists of this time created paintings with classical European theses such as landscapes and portraits.
The Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s gave African American artists more freedom to paint in themes that they were more related to their personal experiences. You could literally experience the African American struggle through the artists work of this period. This was the height of the African American Art movement.
Locating African American Art
Currently, African American art can be found mostly in African American circles as they seek art that they can identify with and that shows the beauty and struggles of the African American culture. It has yet to have reached a truly mainstream market as a whole. Still there are some African American artist who have reached a level of notoriety due to their work.
Not all art painted by African Americans today qualifies as African American art. African American art is not categorized based on who creates the work, but because of the subject matter,such as African American people, themes, such as jazz, or ghetto life, and the style of the art, such as tramp art.