Two Books on My Summer Reading List on Art

This summer, I have dedicated myself on catching up on a few books of interest regarding art.  I thought I would share the books that I have been reading since both are recently published.

What I Have Read


As an member, I receive periodic emails on books that match my interests.  Represent: Art and Identity Among the Black Upper-Middle Class  by Patricia A. Banks (published in 2010)  was one that came across my email that caught my attention.  In this book, Banks traverses the New York and Atlanta art worlds to uncover how Black identities are cultivated through Black art patronage.  Drawing on over 100 in-depth interviews, observations at arts events, and photographs of art displayed in homes, Banks elaborates a racial identity theory of consumption that highlights how upper-middle class Blacks forge Black identities for themselves and their children through the consumption of Black visual art.  She not only challenges common assumptions about elite cultural participation, but also contributes to the heated debate about the significance of race for elite Blacks, and illuminates recent art world developments. In doing so, Banks documents how the salience of race extends into the cultural life of even the most socioeconomically successful Blacks.

Some interesting quotes:

Regarding Black Cultivated Consumption (pp. 4-5)

I argue that upper-middle-class blacks self-consciously engage in black arts participation (activities that involve art by black artists or about black people) to enact and nurture their own and their children’s racial identity.” I call this practice black culitvated consumptions.  Black identity and black arts participation are mutually reinforcing because upper-middle-class black engage in black arts participation to enact their already existing black identities, and the experience of black artsw participation nourishes their racial identity.  During this process different dimensions of black identity are constructed, including black appearances, black history, black pride and black unity.”

Regarding Narratives of Art (p. 49)

Some participants direct their arts participation toward deepening their knowledge of the history of black visual arts production, such as African American art history.  They seek to become familiar with aspects of these histories such as the names of black artists, their techniques, their relationships with other artists, and interpretations of their work.

Advancing the Race (p. 79)

Many of the middle-class blacks I talked with articulate their sense of interdependence with other blacks through the patronage of black art.  They conceptualize their patronage of black art as contributing to a collective project of black cultural advancement.  The success of black artists and black cultural institutions is seen as shared black endeavors, as is the black community’s ownership of black art.  The sense of common purpose that surrounds their patronage of black art is often characterized by a belief that black artists, black institutions, and black collectors face adversities within the world of art, and that their arts participation helps to remedy these adversities.  They see their art patronage as addressing collective endeavors including developing a market for the work of black artists and valorizing their art, participating in black ownership of black art, and cultivating the audience for black visual arts institutions and enriching them financially.”

Patricia A. Banks is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Mount Holyoke College. Her  research and teaching interests include the sociology of culture and race and ethnicity.    She received her Ph.D. and A.M. from Harvard University and B.A. from Spelman College    (Valedictorian, Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa). Her research has been published in journals such as Ethnic and Racial Studies. In 2009-2010, Professor Banks is in residence as a Fellow at the W.E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.   Professor Banks has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University, an Exchange Scholar at Columbia University, and received fellowships or grants from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, AAUW, the UNCF/Mellon Program, and the Irene Diamond fund. She has been recognized for teaching excellence by the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, and presented her research at major conferences such as the Collecting African American Art: Aesthetics, Methods, and Marketplace Conference at the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora, and the Arts, Culture and the Public Sphere Conference in Venice, Italy.

As an artist, art consultant and collector, this book was a valuable resource in learning more about how and why  upper-middle class African Americans support  the visual arts.  Banks’s interviews with a variety of collectors are quite candid and eye-opening.  There are photographs also of artwork in private collections,, however, they are in black and white and the quality does not reproduce well in the book.

What I Am Reading Now

I am not sure what drew me to EyeMinded: Living and Writing Contemporary Art by Kellie Jones.  I believe I read something about the book’s upcoming release earlier this year and I remember saying to myself, who is Kellie Jones and why is this book so important. From the book’s description below, it provided me with some background on this legendary art scholar:

“A daughter of the poets Hettie Jones and Amiri Baraka, Kellie Jones grew up immersed in a world of artists, musicians, and writers in Manhattan’s East Village and absorbed in black nationalist ideas about art, politics, and social justice across the river in Newark. The activist vision of art and culture that she learned in those two communities, and especially from her family, has shaped her life and work as an art critic and curator. Featuring selections of her writings from the past twenty years, EyeMinded reveals Jones’s role in bringing attention to the work of African American, African, Latin American, and women artists who have challenged established art practices. Interviews that she conducted with the painter Howardena Pindell, the installation and performance artist David Hammons, and the Cuban sculptor Kcho appear along with pieces on the photographers Dawoud Bey, Lorna Simpson, and Pat Ward Williams; the sculptor Martin Puryear; the assemblage artist Betye Saar; and the painters Jean-Michel Basquiat, Norman Lewis, and Al Loving. Reflecting Jones’s curatorial sensibility, this collection is structured as a dialogue between her writings and works by her parents, her sister Lisa Jones, and her husband Guthrie P. Ramsey Jr. EyeMinded offers a glimpse into the family conversation that has shaped and sustained Jones, insight into the development of her critical and curatorial vision, and a survey of some of the most important figures in contemporary art.”

Dr. Kellie Jones is Associate Professor in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University. Her research interests include African American and African Diaspora artists, Latino/a and Latin American Artists, and issues in contemporary art and museum theory. Her teaching covers the 17th – 21st centuries.  Dr. Jones was named an Alphonse Fletcher Sr. Fellow in 2008 for her lifetime of writing on visual art.  The fellowship commemorates the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling of 1954 which struck down legal segregation; it recognizes candidates whose work honors and furthers the spirit of the statute. In 2005 she was the inaugural recipient of the David C. Driskell Award in African American Art and Art History from the High Museum of Art, Atlanta and a Scholar-in-Residence, at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Study and Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy. Dr. Jones’s writings have appeared in numerous exhibition catalogues and the journals NKA, Artforum, Flash Art, Atlantica, and Third Text among others.  Current book projects include, Taming the Freeway and Other Acts of Urban HIP-notism: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s (forthcoming from The MIT Press).

I felt compelled to learn more about her writings and her work, specifically with African American artists and other “marginalized” populations in the greater historical context of visual art.  So far, I am enamoured with her writing and historical prespective regarding the work of many artists that I admire and look forward to consuming the entire book!

So have you read any interesting books about art, art history or artists in general?  Have you read any the books above?  Feel free to share and recommend!