Smith & Benjamin’s Bahamian Art & Culture Newsletter shares: “Two new essays written by Bahamian art historian, educator and curator, Erica M. James, PhD, have recently been published in important art journals.
Described as “innovative research” by the Smithsonian, James’ essay entitled Charles White’s J’Accuse and the Limits of Universal Blackness was published in the Fall 2016 issue of the Archives of American Art Journal published by the Smithsonian Institution. This special issue on African American art celebrates the opening of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Also included are articles and essays on the art collections and archival research at the Smithsonian’s newest museum, new acquisitions related to African American art at the Archives, and research on Emma Amos, the WPA, and black feminist curatorial practices of the 1970s.
In this essay, James writes about African American artist Charles White who grounded his aesthetic practice in radical left politics and the belief that the representation of black people communicated a universal mandate of freedom. James explores how White’s faith in a cosmopolitan politicized aesthetic was formed, deployed, and ultimately challenged leading up to his 1966 exhibition at the Heritage Gallery in Los Angeles.
Another article by James entitled Every Nigger is a Star: Reimagining Blackness from Post–Civil Rights America to the Postindependence Caribbean was included in the Fall 2016 issue of the art journal Black Camera published by the Indiana University Press.
In 1974, the film Every Nigger is a Star, produced in Jamaica by Caribbean-born blaxploitation star Calvin Lockhart and shot by noted African American filmmaker William Greaves, was released in Kingston and in Nassau, Bahamas. James’ article explores this lost film’s production, distribution, disappearance, and unexpected but extensive transatlantic afterlives through the work of visual artists Dave Smith, Barkley L. Hendricks, Nelson Stevens, and Jae Jarrell. Produced in the ideological crosshairs of the Black Power and Black Arts Movements, post–civil rights debates in the United States around the signification and resignification of the word nigger, blaxploitation filmmaking, and the distribution of these films in the post-independence Caribbean, records indicate the film was a sincere attempt by Lockhart to document black creativity in expansive ways. While the film failed to live up to its producer’s expectations, James argues that the photography, paintings, and music drawn from its creation, exhibition, and infectious soundtrack performed the political and cultural work within the diaspora that the film perhaps could not.”
Read the original article in the newsletter here.
Read Dr James’ article on Charles White’s ‘J’accuse’ here.
Read Dr James’ article ‘Every Nigger is a star’ here.