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Rewriting the Modern: New Perspectives on Romare Bearden and Archibald Motley


Genealogies of continuity and disruption frequently shape the terms of the art-historical debate when discussing the gestures and insurgencies of form encapsulated in the term “modernist.” Narratives of rupture have often signaled a double bind for African American art. As a field, its existence arguably suggests the need for a paradigm shift in the teleology of Western art history. Yet the terms of this debate can often, albeit unintentionally, foreground social relevance to the detriment of artistic influence. Black artists become the supplement to, rather than catalysts of, artistic change. Their modernity is almost a byproduct: a result of these space-making gestures of “insertion” rather than an assertion of their own creative impulse.

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Journal of American Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-8758
  • EISSN: 1469-5154
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-american-studies
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