Richard Hylton, a postdoctoral fellow, has contributed an essay to The Routledge Companion to African American Art History. In the essay, titled “Status and Presence: African American Art in the International Arena,” Hylton points out that, according to historical accounts, works by African American artists were largely ignored under the wider umbrella of “American art.”
Hylton, who will be based in the Department of History of Art & Architecture (HAA) until summer 2021, says the racially-skewed conceptions of American art continued throughout the postwar period. It was not until the height of the Civil Rights Movement did the exhibition “Ten Negro Artists from the United States” take place in Dakar, Senegal in 1966—the first to present Black art as a distinct grouping. Later, more thematic exhibitions embracing the Harlem Renaissance, Black Arts Movement and Black Power were able to showcase the work of African American artists.
Said Hylton: “It is not too difficult to recount the names of any number of white American artists who have enjoyed long established reputations in the international arena. However, their Black American peers, artists such as Charles White, Elizabeth Catlett and Romare Bearden, still remain largely unfamiliar to international art audiences. My essay considers the legacies, institutional practices and attitudes which have shaped and continue to shape conceptions of ‘American’ and ‘African American’ art across the international arena.”
The Routledge Companion book is a teaching aid to anyone studying modern art history, with chapters on subjects ranging from Black folk art and Black public art to the legacy of presenting Black womanhood.
Hylton is a Dietrich School Diversity Postdoctoral Fellow, and the HAA is one of five Pitt departments hosting a diversity postdoc, beginning with the fall 2019 semester. Hylton is teaching a grad course this semester on the very topic of his essay and will also curate an exhibition in the University Art Gallery in 2021. He is a native of London, England and earned his PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London.