The New Black Aesthetic - Part I

No Weapon Formed…

When I was studying theology in the early 1980’s, I was taking a class on New Testament theology that required studying materials from historians and apologists of the time. One classic statement stood out to me. Attributed to Tertillian, it reads "Plures efficimur, quotiens metimur a vobis: semen est sanguis Christianorum."

Translated into English, it reads “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.”

While many may not connect with the philosophical or historical accuracy of Tertillian’s statement, I suggest that this modern application may find more adherents.

“White oppression stimulates the seed of black expression.”

Of course, Black artists were expressing their artistry long before white slave traders broached Africa’s shores. From pyramids to temples to ornate carvings, Black artistic expression has always foreshadowed all other forms of cultural oppression.

How could it not?

All human life traces itself back to Africa.

But, there is something new going on now.

There is a new wave of bold and unapologetically Black artists making their voices heard.

These artists are unconstrained in their determination to reflect their uncut, unadulterated Black experience.

These new artists are unconcerned about making their work palatable to white audiences.

These new artists refuse to be creative water bearers for those who only believe a Black artist is important when white collectors, curators, and gallerists say they are.

These new artists are circumventing the BFA - MFA - Senior Exhibition - Internship - Exhibition Proposal - etc path to artistic success and instead learning and promoting on their own.

These new artists are not creating work to store in closets gathering dust while waiting on the establishment to invite them to exhibit but instead they are using social media, pop up exhibitions, the internet, and any tools at their disposal.

They are not waiting to be heard.

They are making it impossible to not be heard.

Like Eric “Eazy E” Wright, who went from pressing his own LPs and selling them from the trunk of his car into a $50,000,000 fortune, these new artists are demanding full control of their narrative, image, and promotion.

I have a theory and here it is.

There is a generation of adults who were in school when President Obama was elected.

They saw the First Family do everything white America said good Americans do.

They witnessed the First Family represent the Presidency with the highest level of class, dignity, empathy, and humanity.

They were present for eight years of the most qualified, intelligent, and forthright President the United States had in decades.

And, they saw how he got treated.

They remember the “You lie” insult at his first state of the Union Address.

They saw eight years of white supremacy attack and attempt to denigrate the Obama family in the name of patriotism and “Christianity.”

They witnessed his enemies (and our enemies) literally steal a Supreme Court nomination that he was entitled to.

And, they saw how the nation repaid President Obama for his loyalty and performance by electing a racist liar who began his campaign with a lie about President Obama’s birthplace and citizenship.

They learned that no matter how much a Black person meets American society’s norms of acceptable behavior that they would never have full acceptance.

In fact, if you are too successful, they will manufacture reasons to hate you.

And, with those manufactured reasons, they will attempt to kill you.

But, as the old folks would say…”Joy comes in the morning.”

One of the most liberating moments is when a person accepts the fact that someone else will no longer treat them right and just quit caring about it and walk away.

The most powerful choice a person can make is to choose themselves.

It's like at the end of a dysfunctional relationship when someone realizes the person they have tried so hard to please simply will never be pleased with them.

So, they quit caring

And, they leave.

And, they do what the hell they want.

They dress the way they want.

They go where they go.

They do them.

And, if you don’t like it…tough.

From music to fashions to hairstyles and yes….visual art…Black artists are shedding the baggage of equating artistic success with white acceptance.

They know America is addicted to Black culture.

America is downright sprung on the blackest of Black culture.

So, from content to technique to presentation and articulation, they are unapologetic in their Blackness.

Get used to it.

They are here to stay.

Harold Smith

Kansas City Artist

Studio Inc

@studioinc @haroldsmithart

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