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Art on My Mind: Visual Politics by bell…
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Art on My Mind: Visual Politics (edition 1995)

by bell hooks (Author)

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1962121,554 (3.81)None
In Art on My Mind, bell hooks, a leading cultural critic, responds to the ongoing dialogues about producing, exhibiting, and criticizing art and aesthetics in an art world increasingly concerned with identity politics. Always concerned with the liberatory black struggle, hooks positions her writings on visual politics within the ever-present question of how art can be an empowering and revolutionary force within the black community.… (more)
Member:angelinaruiz8
Title:Art on My Mind: Visual Politics
Authors:bell hooks (Author)
Info:The New Press (1995), 240 pages
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Art on My Mind: Visual Politics by bell hooks

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"To transgress, I must move past boundaries..." ('Being the Subject of Art, 133). This is what bell hooks does in this 1995 collection of essays that is part historical survey, part critique, part manifesto. Artists (and artworks by) Alison Saar, Carrie Mae Weems, Emma Amos, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Lorna Simpson, and others are interviewed and interrogated in the best sense of the word. hooks amplifies intersectionality and lays bare the importance of "constructive critical interrogation" and how essential it is to creating a more authentic understanding. One can, in hooks's mind, celebrate contributions without having to offer wholesale acceptance, especially if there is an absence of understanding of one own's hegemonic role (her basic criticism of Robert Farris Thompson, for example). In essays like 'In our Glory: Photography and Black Life' she digs past both aesthetic and political dichotomies of "good" and "bad". She acknowledges that cultural critique is connected to capitalism and other societal structures:
"Certainly a distinction must be made between having access to art and being willing to engage the visual on an experiential level--to be moved and touched be art. Many of us see art every day without allowing it to be anything more than decorative. The way art moves in the marketplace also changes our relationship to it. Often individuals who collect art spend more time engaged with issues of market value rather than experiencing the visual. " ('Critical Genealogies: Writing Black Art', 108)

Roughly at the center of the collection is hooks's most personal (in some ways) essay, 'Women Artists: The Creative Process'. It is this short essay where we learn most about hooks as an artist and writer, and where some of her boldest statements appear:
"Women have yet to create the context, both politically and socially, where our understanding of the politics of difference not only transforms our individual lives (and we have yet to really speak about those transformations) but also alters how we work with others in public, in institutions, in galleries, etc. For example: When will white female art historians and cultural critics who structure their careers focusing on work by women and men of color share how this cultural practice changes who they are in the world in a way that extends beyond the making of individual professional success? (131).
It is a more than fair question. And when we consider that this collection is from a quarter of a century ago, it is telling that I find these questions still very relevant--at least in my field of music history/musicology. I can't speak to the situation in art history, but I'd venture that not much has changed."

The only drawback of the book is that the reproduction of the artwork is not very good, and in some cases, the lack of color undermines some of hooks's most biting and salient points. The book warrants a new edition with color plates, but in lieu of that, the Internet does come to the rescue in most cases. It is worthwhile to take the time to look up the works featured in the book--some of them can be found on Phillips contemporary art and auction site, others on the artists's personal website (such as Carrie Mae Weems's personal website). Others, like Emma Amos's The Overseer, seem inaccessible. But hooks's prose throws many of these works into high relief through description and critique. But look for them---seek them out. Do the work. The rewards will be there.

This was an important book for me to read, especially because so many of its lessons are directly applicable to music history. It asked me to look at my own "wokeness" and wonder if I have ever been, as Emma Amos put it, "the white critic [who] feels safe focusing on the blackness and otherness of the artist instead of learning to look at the art" ('Straighten up and fly right: Talking Art with Emma Amos,' 188). How much has identity politics shaped by own understanding of music? Am I working against silence and erasure? I'm not sure. But I do know that spending time with these essays has helped me consider the boundaries that I have yet to transgress. ( )
  rebcamuse | May 20, 2020 |
From Publishers Weekly
A prolific critical writer, hooks has contributed a collection of essays on contemporary art and what she describes as the troubling relationship between the dominant white, male art world, its practices, protocols and biases, and the creative production of African American artists-particularly women-and others whose works grapple with issues of identity and social context. Decrying the lack of black critics writing on today's art, hooks provides a minute dissection of issues of race, gender and "cultural hegemony" in the works of the late Jean-Michel Basquiat; examines the historical impact of photography in black life and the trenchant intelligence and beauty of Carrie Mae Weems's photographs; and highlights important critical works by black art historian Sylvia Boone and black architect LaVerne Wells-Bowie. Hooks has a knack for balancing flat academic jargon with vivid language, illuminating the historical and psychoanalytic underpinnings of her topics while anticipating the visceral responses of a lay audience. Despite her generic invocations of the dominant, marginalizing Eurocentric patriarchy, etc., etc., her passionate and highly personal exploration of these and other issues (including a distressing account of her own illness and an aestheticized betrayal by an artist friend) transforms academic abstractions into recognizable human patterns linking the everyday lives of Americans, black or white.
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  CollegeReading | Sep 5, 2008 |
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In Art on My Mind, bell hooks, a leading cultural critic, responds to the ongoing dialogues about producing, exhibiting, and criticizing art and aesthetics in an art world increasingly concerned with identity politics. Always concerned with the liberatory black struggle, hooks positions her writings on visual politics within the ever-present question of how art can be an empowering and revolutionary force within the black community.

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