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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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Old and New Negroes, Continued

Old and New Negroes, Continued

Betye Saar and Kara Walker

(p.146) 5 Old and New Negroes, Continued
Archibald Motley Jr. and Racial Reinvention

Phoebe Wolfskill

University of Illinois Press

Chapter 5 concludes the book with a discussion of contemporary polemics regarding racial reinvention in the work of artists Betye Saar and Kara Walker. Saar and Walker more directly engage and critique racial caricature than Motley and his generation, using stereotype not only as a formal device but also as a subject for de- and re-construction. Through disparate methods, Saar and Walker assert the use of caricatured figuration of blackness as a method of confrontation and, for Saar, potential healing. While Saar, who came to the foreground of the feminist and black arts movements in the 1970s, appropriates and modifies racial caricature as a means of invalidating it, younger artist Kara Walker rejects the possibility of defeating this imagery. This chapter positions Motley’s work as a starting place for the continued refashioning of the black image, exploring the ways in which Motley’s generation provided the foundation for Saar’s and Walker’s attempts to address our culture’s malformed conceptions of blackness. Saar, Walker, and many others make clear that debates about racial representation and reinvention do not end with the Negro Renaissance; indeed, Old Negroes and New Negroes continue to evolve before a global audience.

Keywords:   Betye Saar, Kara Walker, contemporary, debates, critique, deconstruction, reconstruction, stereotype, black, feminist

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