NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 16.2: Fall 2016 - Page 43

The imperfections of both contestants , due to the irregularity of their features that negated unity , would never gain favor in the aesthetic bias of Hegel , who viewed Greek Classical Sculpture as genuinely beautiful , as exemplified by the symmetry of the Greek profile , which has the forehead and nose flow seamlessly into one another , in contrast to the Roman profile in which there is a much sharper angle between the forehead and nose ( Aesthetic , 2 ). Yet , the power of ugly cannot be denied . beauty , when experienced in the African world as a force is not in opposition to ugly , thus its power is never ambivalent , always aspiring toward the renewal of spirit , an empowering affirmation of god , as evinced in a Blues standard where a man bears witness to the power of a woman ’ s physical irregularities as being “ a bow-legged woman makes a Choo-Choo jump its tracks .”
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In his 1926 essay “ Criteria for Negro Art ,” W . E . B . Du Bois proffered a utopian desire for a universal art embraced by all humanity , tenaciously urging black artists of the Negro Renaissance to pursue truth in their creations , “ not for the sake of truth , not as a scientist seeking truth , but as one for whom truth eternally thrusts itself as the highest handmaid of imagination , as the one great vehicle of universal understanding ” ( Du Bois , 1926 ).
However , 40 years later in the sixties , the poet , Larry Neal , one of the guiding exponents of the Black Arts Movement , urged black artists , with unflinching resolve , to replace the Western Aesthetic with a social critique that emanates specifically from the symbology , iconology , and mythology of the African Diasporic experience ( The Black Arts Movement , Visions of a Liberated Future , 1968 , 62 ). Cultural scholar , Houston Baker has noted that “ the guiding assumption of the Black Arts Movement was that if a literary-critical investigator looked to the characteristic creative expression — aspects of both form and performance — that lay closest to the verifiable emotional referents and experiential categories of Afro-American culture … such a Critical investigation … would be the discovery of a “ Black Aesthetic ” — a distinctive code for the creation and evaluation of black art ” ( Blues , Ideology , and Afro-American Literature : A Vernacular Theory , 1994 ).
In 1998 , the preeminent , California based , expressionist painter / sculptor , Oliver Lee Jackson , visited Madrid with his exhibition of paintings . In an interview with Mireia Sentis , he was queried : “ What path has African Art taken through African American artists ?” Jackson immediately shifted the parameters of the conversation away from African Art as the benchmark for discussion to African sensibility , noting that while there was no verifiable path from African Art to African American expressivity , an “ active sensibility ” was clearly discernable in a “ vital African continuum that does not depend upon African “ art ” objects / artifact to follow or inform it .” Jackson identified certain modes of living , such as adornment / style , mannerisms , sacred thought , culinary , and syntactical patterns of speech that reflect active linkages , not necessarily to African Art , but to the origin of African sensibility that continues to resonate African Diasporeans throughout the world . It is , then , the African sensibility that guides the transformative process of making of art . Though expressive transformation is not unique only to people of African descent , for the African Diasporic artist ( African American , African Caribbean , African Brazilian , etc .), it “ is a primary goal / thrust in making ” that is critical for the evaluation of the “ success ” of the thing made ,” an indication of the “ spiritual concern that guides the coming into existence of a new thing from existing things in living experience .”
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