DC MOORE GALLERY’s booth at Art Basel Miami Beach is devoted to paintings by David Driskell from the 1960s and 70s, a turbulent period in American history. Defined by an earnest use of color and deft symbolism, his paintings and collages express modern sensibilities and blend European, American, and African art forms.
Work made during the Civil Rights, Black Power, and Black Arts Movements is being reconsidered anew as overlooked artists from the era are attracting the attention of a new generation of scholars, critics, and collectors and is particularly relevant to the contemporary moment, resonating with today’s political and racial strife amid rising tribalism and nativism.
In three new videos, Driskell talks about being compelled to make the works in response to the political climate and says he initially didn’t exhibit them because they are very personal. He focuses on three paintings—”Soul X” (1968), “Jazz Singer (Lady of Leisure, Fox)” (1974), and “Ghetto Wall #2” (1970)—to frame a broader discussion about works he made during the period.
In “Soul X” he points out a sphere executed in a gray/green color. “Why is the sun so muted? Why is it not bright? That’s because we were looking at the unfortunate aspects of of the political climate,” Driskell says. “It wasn’t doomed, but we were searching for a way out and so these paintings very often reflect a certain aspect of that.”
“We were looking at the unfortunate aspects of of the political climate. It wasn’t doomed, but we were searching for a way out and so these paintings very often reflect a certain aspect of that.” — David Driskell
DC Moore Gallery is presenting paintings by David Driskell made between 1965 and 1975 at Art Basel Miami Beach. | Photo via DC Moore Gallery
A respected artist, curator, and art historian, Driskell established the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora at the University of Maryland, College Park.
During the period when he made the paintings on view in Miami, Driskell had academic appointments at historically black universities. A professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C., he served as acting chair of the art department and university art gallery (1962–1966). At Fisk University in Nashville, Driskell was a professor and chair of the Department of Art (1966–1977).
Influenced by both design and elements of color, “all of the things one would want to see in a good quality painting,” Driskell says he wanted to make both a political and aesthetic statement about what was going on. CT
Beautifully illustrated, “David C. Driskell: Artist and Scholar,” explores the life and work of David Driskell. “Two Centuries of Black American Art” documents the groundbreaking traveling exhibition Driskell organized in 1976 with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In addition, he has published The David Driskell Series of African American Art. The invaluable series written by multiple authors considers the work of individual African American artists.
David Driskell discusses his painting “Jazz Singer (Lady of Leisure, Fox)” (1974), and the representation of women in his work. | Video by DC Moore Gallery
David Driskell talks about a painting from his Ghetto Wall series and the political scene in the 1970s that inspired it. | Video by DC Moore Gallery