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Archibald Motley Jr. and Racial ReinventionThe Old Negro in New Negro Art$
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Phoebe Wolfskill

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780252041143

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252041143.001.0001

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The New Negro and Racial Reinvention

The New Negro and Racial Reinvention

(p.1) 1 The New Negro and Racial Reinvention
Archibald Motley Jr. and Racial Reinvention

Phoebe Wolfskill

University of Illinois Press

Chapter 1 considers the ideologies surrounding the Negro Renaissance, and establishes the historical question that structures the project: how does an artist construct a “New” Negro detached from the authority of past constructions? The chapter introduces the reader to Motley’s background and history, while addressing key paintings that establish the foundation of the concerns elaborated in the manuscript. The chapter further frames the book’s approach to Motley’s work by sifting through art historical discourses regarding the evolution of African American art history and the treatment of the black artist within this history. It posits that the difficulties of devising a New Negro stems not just from the task of revising black identity but rather from the suggestion that black identity can somehow be reduced or codified into a coherent idea or form of representation. Furthermore, there were as many perspectives on how to represent the New Negro as there were artists and writers seeking to redefine this figure.

Keywords:   reinvention, ideology, Motley, painting, art history, African American

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