Decoding Identity

I Do It For My People

This guide will help you find books and other materials at the San Francisco Public Library related to the topic of the African American art and artists. This bibliography was created in conjunction with MoAD (Museum of African Diaspora) for the exhibit Decoding Identity I Do It For My People. If you need further help finding materials, be sure to ask the library staff for guidance. Materials can be found throughout the SFPL’s 27 branches as well as at the Main Library. You will especially want to check out the African American Center on the third floor of the Main Library as well as the Bayview Branch Library.

With the formation of this bibliography, there has been an attempt to “decode identity” in its many guises as seen through the eyes of artists, and It is not meant to be an exhaustive look at art and identity just a general overview on the topic. Although the bibliography does have a focus on African American art and artists and how identity is visited by and imparted through their art and artistic forms, a concerted effort was also made to explore the world of art and identity in a general and historic way and through the lenses of different cultures.

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Book cover Book cover Book cover Book cover Book cover

Art: a sex book
Waters, John

"Contemporary art is sex ... it's all about sex", Waters tells us in the books introduction. in the book he and co-author Hainley have selected and carefully arranged a wide range of work, from startling graphic depictions of the body and sexual acts to abstract images suggesting the erotic. This remarkable and original book will appeal to anyone interested in exploring the place of sex within contemporary society and discovering how it continues to inspire and provoke our leading artists.

704.9428 W317a
Art that dares: gay Jesus, woman Christ, and more
Cherry, Kittredge

Packed with full-page color illustrations, this eye-opening collection features a diverse group of 11 contemporary artists who work both inside and outside the church. They present the gay Jesus, the woman Christ, and other cutting-edge Christian images.

REF 704.9485 C4244a
Assume nothing
Swan, Rebecca

This book is a photographic exploration into the experience of gender across cultures, nations and generations. Photographer, Rebecca Swan, has photographed and interviewed 25 people around the world about their experience of gender.

REF 779.2092 Sw24as
Bent: gender and sexuality in contemporary Scandinavian art
Ahtila, Eija-Liisa

In February 2006, San Francisco State University's College of Creative Arts hosted an exhibition of contemporary Scandinavian art dealing with themes of gender and sexuality. This catalog showcases images from the photography, video, and film of the four artists who participated: Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Jesper Just, Annika Larsson, and Annica Karlsson Rixon.

REF 700.4552 B444
Black book
Mapplethorpe, Robert

Black Book is what some might call a biased journey across the landscape of the black male body, highlighting its stereotyped and ingrained sexuality, diverseness, physical appeal and humanity. These photographs constitute a stunning celebration of the contemporary black male as seen through the eyes of Robert Mapplethorpe a white admirer.

779.23 M322bl
Black male: representations of masculinity in contemporary American art
Golden, Thelma

Black Male is the catalog for what was a major and somewhat controversial exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In her introductory essay, curator Golden explains that she used "five historic signposts" to guide her study of the evolution of images of African American men in the years following the civil rights movement. Golden and her contributors, including Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Bell Hooks, discuss the irony and danger of stereotypes; the implications of various perceptions of black masculinity. The artworks themselves include paintings, photographs, sculptures, and movie stills by such artists as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leon Golub, Spike Lee, Robert Mapplethorpe, Gordon Parks, Alison Saar, and Lorna Simpson. While this catalog is long on commentary and short on art, it is, without a doubt, stimulating and important.

REF 700 G565b
Black male/white male
Fani-Kayode, Rotimi

The late gay Nigerian photographer's piercing exploration of the location of desire and forbidden dreams within the context of different needs.

REF 779.2309 F215b
Black womanhood: images, icons, and ideologies of the African body
edited by Thompson, Barbara

Illustrated throughout in stunning full-color images, this catalogue is the companion to an exhibition of the same name held in 2008-2009 at the Hood Museum of Art. By incorporating critical essays from contributors ranging from poets to professors, this book rises above the average exhibition catalogue into a serious academic endeavor, suitable for scholars and the general public alike.

704.9424 B5619
Botánica Los Angeles: Latino popular religious art in the city of angels
Polk, Patrick A.

Polk (world arts & culture, UCLA) has assembled a collection of essays and images, focusing on the altars, shrines, and other religious imagery.

REF 299.6897 P7599b
Carrie Mae Weems: the Hampton Project
Patterson, Vivian

For twenty years, Carrie Mae Weems has made powerful artwork--often with a fiercely ironic sensibility--from complex social observations. In "The Hampton Project", she knits her concerns about individual identity, class, assimilation, education, and the legacy of slavery into a series of photographic banners that force viewers to reassess their own moral and ethical boundaries, as well as the political and socioeconomic realities of twentieth-century America.

REF 779.9973 W418p
Chicano art inside/outside the master's house: cultural politics and the CARA exhibition
De Alba, Alicia Gaspar

In the early 1990s, a major exhibition--Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation, 1965-1985--toured major museums around the United States. As a first attempt to define and represent Chicano/a art for a national audience, while raising fundamental questions about the nature of multiculturalism in the U.S. This book presents the first interdisciplinary cultural study of the CARA exhibit. This book presents the first interdisciplinary cultural study of the CARA exhibit.

704.0368 G213c
Colored pictures: race and visual representation
Harris, Michael D.

Harris investigates the role of visual representation in the construction of African American identities, focusing particularly on how black artists have responded to--and even used--stereotypical images.

704.9493 H2428c
Face of the gods: art and altars of Africa and the African Americas
Thompson, Robert Farris

Robert Farris Thompson, Professor of the History of African and African-American Art at Yale University, has been working on this study of African-Atlantic altars for twenty-five years. Face of the Gods is based on fieldwork in both Africa and the Americas - in Mali, Ghana, Benin, Nigeria, Zaire, the Central African Republic, Angola, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, on the eastern part of the Atlantic, and in Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Suriname, the United States, Brazil, and Argentina, on the western.

REF 704.0396 T377F
In our own image: the art of black male photography
edited by Vega

In Our Own Image defines the black male identity as seen through the lenses of several different photographers.

REF 779 ZIn103
Men of color: an essay on the Black male couple in prose, illustrations & photographs
Vega Studios

An early 90’s look at the black male couple and identity through the eyes and pen of black contemporary artists.

REF 306.7662 M52
The other Hogarth: aesthetics of difference
edited by Fort, Bernadette

The Other Hogarth, although not dealing with contemporary art, gives a good sense of how historically at least one artist represented identity though his work. William Hogarth (1697-1764), took as one of his central artistic themes the staging of otherness and difference. In a groundbreaking book, a group of international art historians and cultural theorists investigates this major yet overlooked dimension of Hogarth's art and aesthetics. They show that, whether Hogarth depicts a harlot or a wealthy patroness, a gouty earl or a dissolute rake, a black servant or an effeminate parasite, issues of class, gender, and race reverberate throughout his paintings and prints and deeply inform his unique innovation, the Modern Moral Subject.

REF 769.92 H678f
The other side
Goldin, Nan

The Other Side is her very personal declaration of love and gratitude to these drag queens, who showed her a way out of the captivity of pre-packaged, socially prescribed identity. As she put it: "The pictures in this book are not of people suffering gender dysphoria but rather expressing gender euphoria...."

779.2092 G569o 2000
Picturing the New Negro: Harlem Renaissance print culture and modern black identity
Goeser, Caroline

This innovative study examines the efforts of Harlem Renaissance artists and writers to create a hybrid expression of black identity that drew on their ancient past while participating in contemporary American culture.

760.0449 G554p
Race, sex, and gender: in contemporary art
Lucie-Smith, Edward

One of the most significant developments in the art world of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s has been the rise to prominence of art made by minority cultures. Race, Sex, and Gender examines the controversial challenges these groups present to today's artists and critics. Works by African-Americans, feminists, homosexuals, and Latino-Hispanics - once considered marginal - have come to transform contemporary art.

700.103 L963r
Seeing high & low : representing social conflict in American visual culture
edited by Johnston, Patricia

This novel anthology explores the historic boundaries between "high" (elite) art and other media traditionally defined as "low" by presenting thirteen case studies on visual culture's engagement with social controversies throughout American history.

701.03 Se328
Skin deep, spirit strong: the Black female body in American culture
edited by Wallace-Sanders, Kimberly

The essays in Skin Deep, Spirit Strong: The Black Female Body in American Culture chart the ways that the simultaneous interrogation of gender, race, and corporeality shape the construction of black female representation. Kimberly Wallace-Sanders has enlisted a wide variety of scholarly perspectives and critical approaches about the place of black women's bodies within the American cultural consciousness. An impressive gathering of essays and visual art by feminist scholars and artists, the book presents a persuasive argument for broadening the ongoing scholarly conversations about the body.

305.4889 SK333
William Pope.L: the friendliest Black artist in America
edited by Bessire, Mark H.C.

Catalog of an exhibition displayed at the Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art (ICA at MECA), Portland, Maine, July 26-October 17, 2002, and at three other venues through February 2004.

REF 700.92 P8108b
Wrapped in pride: Ghanaian kente and African American identity
Ross, Doran H.

Kente is not only the best known of all African textiles, it is also one of the most admired of all fabrics worldwide. In Wrapped in Pride, seven distinguished scholars present an exhaustive examination of the history of kente from its earliest use in Ghana to its present-day impact in the African Diaspora.

REF 746.1409 R7333w

Artists to be aware of:

  • Glenn Ligon
  • Ajamu
  • Keba Konte
  • Renee Cox
  • Fern Logan
  • Kara Walker
  • Lyle Ashton Harris

For more information on any subject listed here, check the San Francisco Public Library Catalog for the following subjects or ask a librarian for further research help.

This bibliography on African American Artist was put together by the San Francisco Public Library, African American Center for the opening of the exhibition Decoding Identity: I Do it for My People from January 23, 2009 – March 8, 2009 at the Museum of the African Diaspora, 685 Mission Street, SF, CA 94105, This bibliography is part of a collaboration between SFPL and MoAD that encourages further education and reading on topics pertaining to the African American art and artists.

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