• 5   In Our Lives We Are Whole:
    The Images of Everyday Life

This section examines the function of visual culture in the waning years of the modern movement. As local segregation laws were struck down in the 1960s and 1970s and African Americans were enjoying varying levels of enfranchisement across the nation, cultural figures—black and white—came to rethink the imagery of blackness. Their work not only reflected new views about race but also helped modify and improve old ones.

If mainstream popular culture continued to offer a partial, fragmentary, or distorted view of the black experience—a problem that continues today—it was the goal of imagery produced by and for African Americans to represent the full complexity and humanity of a people, to make visible what had remained mostly unseen in the culture at large.

During this period, the Black Arts Movement was born, organized exclusively by African American cultural figures and devoted to celebrating black life and culture. Independent African American cultural locales and institutions emerged, including theater companies, museums, and publishers. And black entertainers, producers, and directors advocated for a greater presence in Hollywood and for more complex and human characters.

Click Images for More Detail
Rupert Garcia
Silkscreen on paper
20 x 18 in.
Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Marcus, 1990.1.75. Courtesy of the artist and the Rena Bransten Gallery
At first glance, this poster by the Chicano artist and activist Rupert Garcia brings to mind mid-twentieth-century icons of black servitude, characters that hovered in representational limbo between slavery and full equality. In Garcia’s hands, this character type becomes a symbol of defiance, self-determination, and resistance.
Negro Es Bello II, 1969
Negro Es Bello II, 1969
Elizabeth Catlett
Negro Es Bello II, 1969
Lithograph on paper
30 x 23 1/3 in.
Art © Elizabeth Catlett/Licensed by VAGA, New York, New York.
Collection of Hampton University Museum
Elizabeth Catlett’s lithograph is a conceptual pendant to Garcia’s poster. It juxtaposes two masklike faces with a grid of decals bearing the Black Panther logo and the words “Black is beautiful.” In both word and image, the work proclaims its resistance to a century and a half of white-identified popular culture designed to keep African Americans in their place by insisting that they are not beautiful.
America Free Angela, 1971
America Free Angela, 1971
Faith Ringgold
America Free Angela, 1971
Offset lithograph on paper
30 x 20 in.
Collection of the Artist
Faith Ringgold ©1971