Welcome to ‘Course Design Matters

Welcome!

Welcome to the “‘Course Design Matters.”  This the collaborative blog authored by students in ART 335, a course on “Origins & Designs of Design”  (Fall 2016 at UMBC).  This site will serve as a place for us to share selected writings from class; to investigate ideas, events, and experiences both from our assigned readings, as well as those found beyond the classroom; to make connections between the historical periods & styles we are studying and our own work and experiences; to think through issues arising from the course; and to share resources.  Our Blackboard site is still the primary hub for internal communication and for assignment submissions.  This site is a supplement to that work.

For those students To sign up for a WordPress account, check out this quick start guide.

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Pop Surrealism

Liezl Zambo

ART 335

Pop Surrealism by Richard Klein is an accompanying exhibition catalogue, published in 1998, for the 1998 exhibit titled Pop Surrealism at The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibit was put together during a time when Surrealism has undoubtedly reentered the art world in a new form, and with this development comes three main themes that are evident: the surreal comics, the grotesque body, and the surrealist icons of popular culture. The curators have chosen works that exemplify any one of these themes. The catalogue contains a Director’s Foreword, 74 images from the exhibit that are spread throughout the book (organized alphabetically by the artist’s last name), three essays by three of the curators for the exhibit: “The Popular Corpse: A Brief History” by Richard Klein, “Not Cloning Around: The Grotesque Body in Pop Surrealism” by Dominique Nahas, and “Pop Icons: A Little Idyll and Selected Quotes” by Ingrid Schaffner, and an index. All three essays tie in with the thesis of the exhibition, but each curator discusses a pop surrealist theme that is related to the specific part of the exhibit that they are curating. Klein examines the narrative aspect; Nahas explores the grotesque body side; while Schaffner goes into detail about the influence of pop icons.

In the first essay, “The Popular Corpse: A Brief History”, Richard Klein essentially calls Pop Surrealism a “popular corpse, [a] Frankenstein-like hybrid of the comic and surreal” (Klein, 15). He asserts that surrealism and comic art are two different concepts that parallel each other and eventually intertwine. For example, the comic Krazy Kat was embraced by the artists of the first manifestation of Surrealism proper (Klein, 17-18). He goes on to discuss the growth of the comic culture and popular cartoon characters in America in the 1930s and they’re initiation into the advertising industry (I.e. the beginnings of characters like Mr. Clean, Pillsbury Doughboy, etc). It was during this time that the Surrealists start to combine the “pop superficiality” of cartoons and the “disruptive” surreal (Klein, 56). In discussing the history of Pop Surrealism in the first essay, Klein introduces readers to this art movement. Having the catalogue begin this way helps readers understand where it all started and how the art style develops. It gives readers some brief context on the artworks in Pop Surrealism.

“Not Cloning Around: The Grotesque Body in Pop Surrealism” by Dominique Nahas introduces the second theme of “the grotesque body” in Pop Surrealism. Nahas points out that the artists in the exhibition steer clear from outright representing the body. In their depictions, the body is deformed as they combine the “weird” and the “[hyper]realistic” (Nahas, 62). He spends majority of the essay talking about the grotesque body (the Surrealism aspect), while injecting some lines about its relationship to mass media and pop culture. Nahas’ essay was a really huge shift from the first essay by Richard Klein. Although the first essay wasn’t written in a casual tone, it comes off as such in comparison to Nahas’ more ‘academic’ and ‘formal’ essay. It is also the most formal among the three essays. Reading this essay would be difficult because he references concepts that most people have never heard of. For instance, he describes mass media as “… the Baudrillardian simulcra in all of its bright plumage” (Nahas, 65). It’s clear that his intended audience are those that are ‘well-read’, evident in this line: “In Bakhtinian terms, then, the grotesque body is flesh as the site of becoming.” (Nahas, 83). And he continues on to the next sentence without explaining what exactly constitutes a “Bakhntinian term”. In order to fully understand him, readers should be ready to spend a some time looking things up.

Switching to Ingrid Schaffner’s essay “Pop Icons: A Little Idyll and Selected Quotes”, she begins with the interesting sentence of “Pop and Surrealism are dating, again.” (Schaffner, 103). She acknowledges the never-ending dichotomy in the Pop Surrealist movement and best describes Pop Surrealism’s ability to be disarming: “Finally, perhaps it is even due to their familiarity, I.e. friendliness, that pop icons have a particularly special knack for appearing so strange simply by dint of being dissociated from the ordinary landscape, the routine context of things.” (Schaffner, 113) . The final half of her essay is solely dedicated to selected quotes by artists that best capture her thoughts on Pop and Surrealism. Other than the selected quotes, what Schaffner does differently, compared to the other two writers, is that she heavily references the actual artworks in the exhibition: “You can see pictures of it in Miles Coolidge’s art… familiar but strange” (Schaffner, 104). By doing this, readers can just flip to the artwork that she mentions (as they’re organized alphabetically by the artist’s last name) to get an idea of what she’s talking about.

In Pop Surrealism by Richard Klein, the writers examine the developing connection between popular culture and Surrealism during the 20th century. Although anyone is welcome to read through this catalogue, those with an interest and knowledge of art and art history are most likely to spend their time reading the essays. In their essays, the curators use art jargon that those not familiar with art might have some difficulty with, and the mention of specific art movements would be lost on the readers with no basic knowledge of art history, as they wouldn’t understand the context of their writing. Despite this, I would still recommend this book to anyone as it is one of the first books to examine the Pop Surrealism movement at its infancy. It is currently almost two decades since Pop Surrealism has been published and a lot has changed in the pop surrealism movement since then. However, I would only readily recommend that people read the first and last essay in the catalogue, then the second essay if they have captured their interest.

Klein, Richard, Dominique Nahas, and Ingrid Schaffner. Pop Surrealism: June 7-August 30, 1998, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art. Ridgefield, CT: Museum, 1998. Print.

ART DECO: 1910-1939

Sonali Sitaram

ART 335

Book Review

 

Art Deco:1910-1939. By Charlotte Benton, Tim Benton, and Ghislaine Wood. (Victoria & Albert Museum, 2015).

 

The term ‘Art Deco’ covers a style applied to design, architecture, and visual arts during the 1920s and 1930s. This new style originally appeared in France before the first World War. Art pieces and objects created during this movement were considered luxurious, glamorous, and encouraged technological processes. ‘Art Deco: 1910- 1939’ combines images from this time period and works influenced by this, as well as essays and critiques from this period. It was created and edited by Charlotte Benton, Tim Benton, and Ghislaine Wood. All three authors are considered art historians, whose expertise range from teaching to curating Art Deco exhibitions. The text is broken up into sections, discussing topics from the 1925 Paris Exhibition to Iconography, and finishing with how the Art Deco movement influenced many artists and pieces not only in Europe, but around the world.

Unlike traditional textbooks, this book refrains from spitting information in one tone, as many points of view and different historians give their take on this style. Though each passage and even section has its unique information given, it may not be something to smoothly read from one section to another. Each individual essay gives the reader a taste of the Art Deco period. As you begin to wrap your head around one idea or element, it will jump to the next topic and begin a new idea or segment. Architecture still around today is heavily influenced by this period, such as the Chrysler Building and Grand Rex movie theater in Paris. Gustav Klimt was a renown artist during this period. His painting subjects, as well as others during this period centered around woman. They also portrayed women in a less conservative manner. These works began to stray from linear pattern, and focused on curvatures, making the curves the subject of the composition- also shown by using the woman’s hair to map the structure of the piece. Klimt’s ‘Golden Age’ pieces were an innovation in themselves, using gold ink to make up majority of the canvas. One could open to a page comparing the influence on architecture by a historian, and on the very next page dive into an in depth discussion of Klimt’s Golden Age paintings by an art critic. Because the topics cover overall mediums and areas that Art Deco influenced are scattered, it may be confusing to follow along for someone who is searching just to get an overview of this period.

Art Deco: 1910-1939 also gives its information in chronological order. From when it first came about in France, to its influence it left behind, we see the evolution of thoughts and ideas still used in architecture and artworks today. As discussed earlier, women during this period become some of the primary subjects of these works, and even in magazines today it is not uncommon for woman to be portrayed in a less conservative manner. Now, we mainly see Art Deco’s style in furniture, apart from fine artwork and architecture. Its influence is commonly seen on household items, such as glamorous mirrors with gold borders, or chairs and tables designed to stand with geometric patterns. Articles are referenced amongst each other, relating to back  to previous topics as the book progresses. For example; viewing gold work now, geometric patterns and the use of feminine pattern. Comparing different throughout history and being able to visually see what is being covered allows the viewer to join and connect to discussions.

Overall, this book is enjoyable to read, but the name is misleading. Many students don’t enjoy art history textbooks because it’s dense information doesn’t hold their attention. Pictures in this book are large and clear, which allows the reader to have a stronger connection to the information given. Clarity and size of pictures make it a more interesting read, as the reader is able to visualize and connect to the passages. The various essays introduce a unique way to discuss information, and communicate with the reader. However, for those looking for a quick overview of this period, this is probably not the best book. The name itself Art Deco: 1910-1939 is misleading because of its broad name. The title gives the assumption that it covers generally everything related in this time period. The Benton’s and Wood go in depth to discuss each individual piece or medium. Unless one is interested in external opinions and critiques of this period, they may not get the information they are looking for. From reading about Klimt to discussing the influence on everyday items that followed, this book reviews how Art Deco touched many mediums and spread throughout time through various points of view.

 

Color in Art

Desiree Maloney

ART 335

Book Review

Color in Art. By John Gage. (Thames & Hudson, 2006. 196pp.).

The idea of color may be obvious to a lot of people but there is more to it verse what people may perceive when just looking at an item. Color is produced when light strikes an object and is reflected back to the eye. Author John Gage goes into great detail throughout his book Color in Art when explaining different aspects of color in history. Gage begins by explaining how color transformed over time. He highlights how the start of using primary colors eventually lead to a great deal of color choices for artists. From there he then breaks down the different aspects that contributed to the evolution of color. For example Gage discusses the psychological, significance, language, and senses of color throughout his book. Gage does a great job at breaking down the various components of color through his chapters. Each chapter focuses on one main contribution to color. If someone wanted to learn about a specific concept on the development of color, this book is very accessible because of the way it is formatted. There are visual aids as well, so the reader can understand what is being explained within the page.  Based off the information presented by Gage, before studies were done on the concept of spectral colors, artists were forming their artwork based off what they were seeing. Artist started to shift their focus on depicting the mood to their artwork by using specific groups of colors together. Overtime, the evolution of color has helped influence the choices artist make when choosing their tonal palettes for their artwork.

One of the first aspects that contributed to the development of color was the development of the color spectrum. During the ancient Greek time period, pigments of color were the ideal go to medium for artwork. There was no formal understanding of a color wheel and its supporting factors like secondary, complementary, and analogous colors. Aristotle was one of the first philosophers to understand that color needed to be studied and not just blended as most painters did (16). Studies of the color spectrum came about during the seventeenth century when Sir Isaac Newton did his spectrum study of color. Before that study took place, the understanding of primary colors started to become noted in the 1100’s. One of the contributing factors was the use of stained glass art. Artists were using the main colors red, yellow, and blue in their work because they found that it was able to depict the naturalistic element of light best. A good example of this styled work was The Crucifixion and the Ascension found in the Pointers Cathedral (21). It consisted of a fluent use in red, yellow, blue, and small hints of green throughout the piece. Even over time, the idea of using primary colors was still favored by many artists. During the De Stijl movement artist favored the use of this triad color palette. Artist like Barnett Newman felt that these colors should be expressive rather than didactic (27). Along with his ideas of these colors came a series of artwork that showcased the true essence of the trio.

While some artist later in the century enjoyed the visual concept of using primary colors, earlier in the years, the sense of the color spectrum becoming more known excited artist like Vincent van Gogh. There first came the spectral study and then the more detailed circular study of color after that. Newton eventually took his linear spectrum and transformed it into a color circle. This was ideal for him because he needed to mathematically plot the location of mixed colors. The adaption to the color spectrum lead to many studies by artist who felt there was a relationship between different colors and how they fell on the color wheel. For artist like Frantisek Kupka, he felt as though certain colors created a vibration more than others when placed side by side. This idea brought him to create his work Disks of Newton (35). This piece portrayed the concept of circles and the use of colors that fell next to each other on the color wheel, as well as across. Now there was a formal knowledge of color starting to really develop in art. The exploration of tonalities in the different colors on the color wheel paved the way for a new approach to art. This shifted artist’s focus on psychological meanings behind color. The idea of creating a mood with a certain set of colors helped develop the deeper logic behind the artist work.

Gage opens up his chapter about the psychology of color by explaining how darkness had been an important perception of color in the real world as well as in paintings done earlier in the years (61). The use of dark colors such as black had always played a role in depicting a negative tone within art. The use of this color made it easier for artist to present a specific mood such as death, depression, or tragedy. Eventually the use of dark colors would become something that wasn’t used for negative subject pieces. The use of blacks would be paired with positive art pieces like in Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s painting, La Loge. He shows a woman and a man of high status dressed in black and white. Renoir plays with the use of light and dark in his painting, while still managing to keep an upbeat piece. Gage is starting to formulate a sense of understanding for the reader when it comes to color.  He goes into further detail by talking about Friedrich Friebel. Friebel was a Romantic Idealist educator who introduced the use of bright colors and abstract shapes in his children’s toys. It was believed that the use of the bright colors helped encourage creative play in kids. Through the study he conducted, it was also concluded that babies are able to distinguish red, blue, yellow, and green years before they even had the word capacity to name them. The use of the bold colors transpired into fashion choices as well as furniture designs. Bright yellows would be seen in things like baby cradles, due to its association with giving off high energy. During the holidays people would dress in the bold colors for the sake of the occasion. Artists began to even formulate differences in moods when it came to warm and cool colors.  Around the 18th century was when the idea of warm and cool colors gained recognition. With the understanding that color can hold a psychological meaning within a piece of art, the knowledge behind color begins to grow even more in Gage’s book Color in Art. Gage continues on into a chapter that talks about the significance in color.

Many colors tended to hold representational meanings. Overtime colors began to develop symbolic meanings behind them. Throughout the Middle Ages purple had been associated with royalty. Gage states that because this color was exceptionally laborious it was costly to produce (148). These characteristics made purple targeted for imperial households and the government. Even till this day the color purple is associated with a sense of high status. The use of color is also apparent within many of the flags seen around the country. When it comes to the green, it was believed that this color symbolizes hope. This idea was taken from the Christian theological virtues. While many different colors hold different meanings, some colors can have multiple meanings. Gage point out how red is a good example of being a color that can hold multiple representations. In this particular chapter he states how red can symbolize war, bravery, blood, authority, fire, faith, sun and many more (153). It just shows that the use of color is all in the context of the image produced. In Eugene Delacroix painting, Liberty Leading the People, one can imply that the flag being held with the red in it symbolizes war because of the setting in which the artist painted. The setting is either during or right after a battle. In the right side of the frame, a woman can be seen holding a flag that consists of the colors red, white, and blue. The development of artist expanding their knowledge of color helped shape a more versatile creation of art over the years.

Through the exploration of color, artist discovered new principles that helped form a deeper meaning within their art. More artists were able to utilize various colors in a harmonic way, thus adding to the tone of their paintings. The development of the color spectrum was the starting point that shifted the techniques artists were using. From there, the idea that color could hold a psychological meaning also created diversity in paintings. This allowed paintings to show a certain mood even better when paired with colors that complemented the specific feeling. Colors being able to hold a symbolic tone transformed the way certain objects or people may have been painted just based off of the color choice. Someone who was of royal status may have been painted with a lot of purple due the meaning behind that color. Overall Gage managed to break down the important factors that developed over time within color in a way that was effective and engaging.

Leah Dorrian

Art 335

Book Review Outline

Psychedelic, Optical & Visionary art since the 1960s. David S. Rubin. (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: The MIT Press, 2010. 135p.)

In the book “Psychedelic, optical & visionary art since the 1960s”, author David S. Rubin examines the cultural atmosphere of the Psychedelic era that inspired colorful, hallucinatory, and anamorphic artworks that present alternate perspectives of our reality. The title is straightforward and an effective catch for it’s readers. He delves into the history of surrealist and abstract artists and their usage of tools to help create visual representations of the higher realms of consciousness, providing evidence of how these artists created a momentum for the evolving consciousness of the 1960s. Rubin suggests that the psychedelic art of the 60s was a continuation of the artist’s quest to uncover and express visions of the unconscious and subconscious mind.  He maintains that the psychedelic culture has had an extensive visual impact on an “assortment of artists working over the past five decades” (foreward).

After WWII ended in 1945, the depression had ceased and an economic expansion transformed the U.S. in many ways. Now that the country was no longer focused on military spending, consumerism and materialism began to drive this new golden age of capitalism. American citizens were bombarded with advertisements, being praised and encouraged to invest in machines like “televisions, cars, refrigerators, toasters, and vacuum cleaners: the machines that would help them modernize their lives” (PBS-Rise of Consumerism). One major effect of this newfound stability was “the baby boom”, where an enormous increase in birth rate took place. In the middle of the 1960s, these “baby boomers” were young adults who began to question the material culture they were raised in, and countless revolutions based on the principles of freedom from oppression and discrimination swept the country.

With the hippie movement in full swing, partially led by popular rock bands like The Doors,  Janice Joplin, The Grateful Dead, The Who, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, a thriving atmosphere for artistic exploration and experimentation emerged. This generation was known for seeking spiritual experiences through Eastern Mysticism, famously brought to the western world by the Beatles, as well as using psychedelic drugs. Ruben explains how artists and musicians alike created works that focused on producing “a profound sense of intensified sensory perception, sometimes accompanied by severe perceptual distortion and hallucinations and by extreme feelings of either euphoria or despair” (dictionary.com/psychedelic) for the viewer to participate with and reflect upon. Drawing from a wide range of influences, the Psychedelic era borrowed characteristics from existing movements of Abstract Modernism, Pop Art, Surrealism, and Art Nouveau and expanded upon them to reflect the progressive culture of the 60s.

Ruben provides a thorough exhibition of artworks that fall under the Psychedelic category with essays that deconstruct the drastically different approaches, mediums, and content of each work. From conceptual photographic artwork of Yayoi Kusama that shows the infinite dimensions that a mirrored room creates, to oil paintings by Robert Williams and Alex Gray that are collage-like and realistic takes on spiritual beings; Ruben shows that consciousness has no limitations or rules, and that it is expanding and performing through various colors and form. While each work has a unique optical goal, the most persistent underlying themes appear to arbitrate the mysterious nature of time and other dimensions in the universe that play a role in our psychological experience as humans (with an ever-expanding understanding of them). He suggests that all of the artists are “looking inward for new signs, for a revitalization of what may suddenly appear on the surface of reality and revive a sense of feeling alive, productive, and happy against all odds” (47). It is quite refreshing to see this wave of artistry that defied the social norms of the art world, that questioned the parameters of the cultural confines and explored the deeper and more complex matters of consciousness. Also, to my surprise, Rubens adds that despite the varying beliefs on using drugs, the artists works reflected the persistence of a subculture that valued transcendental and consciousness-expanding aesthetics. He argues that “psychedelic substances are catalysts and tools that can assist us in this process of awakening-when used properly” (54). Evidently, these substances can be powerful tools that have been used by indigenous peoples for millennia, and his point is supported by the high caliber of artistic technique that each of these artists demonstrate.

The organization of the book is unorthodox, and with better organization of the quality content that Ruben has compiled, the book would have been more successful. There are three essays in the beginning that divulge into the history of the movement as well as the analytical comments of the works, however, all of the artworks are printed at the back of the book. This makes for an rather inconvenient reading experience, where one has to find the piece of art that Rubens is referring to in the front of the book. Breaking up the essays and inserting the psychedelic piece that he is analyzing would be a more effective organizational style. 

This book discusses the motivations and influences of the Psychedelic era and presents comprehensive research as to how this “stimuli for a new millennium” (2) broadened our collective view of reality, encouraging us to reconsider the depths of our imaginations and our connection to the world’s beyond our immediate scope of vision.  Rubens maintains that there has been an intensification of our collective psychic capacities, which have resulted in much more elaborate and contemplative works of art.  As a result, artworks from the 60s have been influential in today’s art, whereby many artists assume the role of “conduits [that transmit] optically charged information, enticing viewers into sumptuous wonderlands for inquiry, speculation, and connectivity” (31). And while the stereotype insists that the movement has been convoluted by drugs and is mostly appreciated by hippies, the truth and examples of the movement’s true origins and connections to our cultural values is illustrated beautifully in Ruben’s arguments on the importance of psychedelic art in helping the evolution of humanity.

The Global Africa Project Book Review

Markele Cullins

Art 335

Book Review

The Global Africa Project. By Naomi Beckwith, Judith Bettelheim, Christopher Cozier,

Leslie King Hammond, Julie Lasky, José Julian Mapily, and Keith Recker. (Prestel:

Museum of Art and Design, 2010. 264 pp.).

 

The Global Africa Project written by Leslie King-Hammond and Lowery Stokes Sims is a book that provides an archival index for The Global Africa Project, an exhibition curated at The Museum of Art and Design in New York. In addition to providing an index on various works featured in the exhibition it also discusses the significance behind the show and the cultural, conceptual, and aesthetic importance of African diasporic design and the role it plays in society. The text specifically focuses on African based or Afocentric design and aesthetic and its relevance in our global world. The primary framework for the book is based on the exhibition, but it transcends the exhibition, exploring the links between Black artists and creatives across time and space.

The Global Africa project is an exhibition featuring artists and designers across that African diaspora that all intentionally or unintentionally relate to the theme of Afrocentrism or Africa as a framework of thought. The exhibition opened at the Museum of Art and Design featured on November 17, 2010 featured works from artists like, Nick Cave, Hank Willis Thomas, Mickalene Thomas and more. The show curated by Hammond and Sims is carefully curated to display parallels of design and aesthetics amongst artist working within the African diaspora.

Although the text and exhibition highlights a vast selection of African descended artists and designers there has been issues with representation of Black designers throughout history. Whitfield affirms this notion by discussing his experiences and observations in the design world. While attending New York’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair in the late 1990’s Whitfield noticed that he was one of few African American designers. In addition, all of the designers participated in a discussion centered on Afrocentrism and the design marketplace; this conversation was closed and cut off from the rest of the fair providing a lack of community and inclusion around the discussion (62).

Whitfield, Hammond, and Sims discuss Africa not only as a continent, but also as a psychic space. Whitfield states: “Throughout my life, Africa has been more than a place. It has been a defining factor in my psyche, not always conscious but definitely influential, sometimes inspirational, sometimes troubling, for better or worse, a point of reference in my understanding of the culture I occupy” (62). In this quote Whitfield analyzed the way Africa functions as a physical space but also as a concept and idea, and how it relates to his body. Furthermore, Whitfield draws parallels between racial tensions in America to colonization and apartheid in the continent of Africa in the mid fifties. The lack of representation and resources for designers and the links between the African diaspora in terms of art, design but also conflicts and issues are important for a holistic understanding of the text.

Afrocentrism can be defined as an ideology that centers the Black body, in design that could relate to the quality, texture, color, medium and numerous other visual and conceptual aspects that exist in said works. The Global Africa Project showcases various works from artists working in a variety of mediums and concepts in an attempt to break down how these pieces function in a design sense, but also show the correlation between design aesthetics and concepts across countries and cultures. Kehinde Wiley (figure 1) is a painter that successfully merges art and design by utilizing decorative pattern and realistic portraiture. On the other hand, Zwelethu Mthethwa is a photographer that captures portraits of individuals with newspaper and pattern backgrounds to showcase the symbolic and spiritual purposes. Mthethwa captures her subjects in their home and connects this practice of interior design with Africans and African Americans. The subject matter in the foreground and pattern in the background technique is used in both of these pieces to create an environment that centralizes the figure around intricate designs. Wiley and Mthethwa are not the only Black artist working in this way, Ebony G. Patterson, a Jamaican painter and installation artist also uses complex patterns and textiles in her work. Although these artists come from completely different backgrounds there is still a commonality between their practice.

When analyzing the way Afrocentrism functions in design it is also important to analyze the ways logos have been used throughout history and contemporary culture. Adinkra symbols are visual symbols from the Ashanti ethnic group in Ghana, West Africa. These symbols can be back to as early 1818 found printed on cloth. These symbols carry profound meaning such as Sankofa, which is a bird looking back, which translates to: “Go back and get it”. In the present day Adinkra symbols are tattooed all over the bodies of members of the African Diaspora and there are films (such as Sankofa) that are made centralized around these visual symbols. Artist like Rachid Koraichi create work that explore the spiritual weight behind symbols in African Diasporic culture. Jordanian artist Wijdan states: “(Koraichi) focuses on the spiritual representation of objects and beings not on their material qualities.” Contemporary popular examples of branding include the Jonson Johnson, Prince, and Wu Tang Clan’s logo (18).

The Global Africa Project briefly covers architecture as another element of design that deserves more critical attention. The Reginald F. Lewis Museum is a museum of African American art, history, and culture in Baltimore, Maryland. The conceptual vision for the architectural design of the museum is one meant to represent that pride, struggle and accomplishments of Maryland’s African American people. The building is dynamic with sharp angles and highly contrasting colors from the Maryland state flag (111). This text was written before the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) was created but it is still important to expand on architecture and the similarities between the NMAAHC and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. The NMAAHC is a dynamic museum that also uses sharp angles and points; but instead of using color to represent the spirit of Black Americans it uses a very intricate interlaced pattern (similar to the backgrounds in Kehinde Wiley’s work). The architectural design of Black based cultural institutions is explored briefly in the text but it is still something that needs to be studied and developed.

The Global Africa Project is a book that explores the African aesthetic of visual art and design. The text critically analyzes work created by African descended people around the world; including graphic design, textiles, basket weavings, and even hair. It carefully and successfully finds links between artist such as the connection between Kim Schmahamann and Tony Whitfield’s work in how they both use texts, signs, and symbols to convey meanings (16). The parallels and conceptual study of Afrocentric or African centered work could be studied and explored for ages; because of this fact The Global Africa Project missed opportunities to dive in deeper into the nuanced and expansiveness of this work. For example Wu Tang Clan collaborated with artist Lina Viktor, as both are artists that utilize black and gold in their work (collaboration pictured in figure 3).

While acknowledging this connection one could also note that Yinka Shonibare and A$AP Rocky also use strong black and gold colors as an aesthetic choice. To dive in deeper Nina Simone, the famous singer, musician and activist, have an album titled “Black Gold”. In addition, Gold as a material, recourse jewel, and symbol has been important throughout history (For example: the Ashanti region in Ghana is well known for having gold as a natural recourse). This quick analysis extends the argument made in the text about the Wu-Tang Clan to the general understanding of how these color choices correlate with other artists, culture and history. It also acknowledges that the artist themselves understand the parallels between their work. The issue with the lack of depth in the text has less to do with the text itself and more to do with the lack of studies, books, and resources that generally cover Black art and design in depth.

The Global Africa Project is such a significant book in that it’s the beginning of studying, contextualizing, and understanding the way African diasporic visual art and design connects to one another. Both the exhibition and the text are powerful recourses in not only understanding African art but also how visual art and design move across time, space and culture.