Collage as Identity in The Black Family by Vincent Smith
Wolfe, M. Melissa
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Publisher:The Ohio State University
Series/Report no.:The Ohio State University. Department of History of Art Honors Theses; 2010
I explore how black artist Vincent Smith (1929-2003) staked a claim in the trajectory of the traditionally European 'Holy Family' theme in his painting The Black Family (1972/73). Through Smith's emboldened style, incorporation of collage, and multiple references to European high art, this painting bridges the 'Holy Family' theme with the artist's African heritage as well as his African-American social and racial engagement. I highlight the significance involved in an act which challenges conventional notions of art: Smith employs magazine and newspaper cut-outs in a collage, which evokes deep racial and psychological aspects that speak to the black community during the 1970s. My research demonstrates parallel strategies at work in both The Black Family and in artworks belonging to the concurrent feminist "Pattern and Decoration Movement" by examining relationships in the use of collage, specifically highlighting the fabric elements in The Black Family. This decade redefined the cultural constructions of female and black art, highlighting marginalized positions of these groups in the art world. Earlier scholarship on Vincent Smith's work has been through a lens of social protest; therefore, research on Vincent Smith's painting The Black Family is of import in bringing to light a painting whose subject matter touches on themes that speak to audiences beyond the black arts community. This painting stands apart from his art of social protest and represents a conscious effort for inclusion and recognition in the mainstream art world. By relating Smith's artistic approach in The Black Family to feminist art strategies, my research concludes that these techniques, which worked towards the inclusion of marginalized artwork within a larger artistic context, broadened the boundaries of art history.
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