Black Artists on Art: The Book Series

IMG_4383                                                                        BLACK ARTISTS ON ART…

is a book series started by Samella Lewis and Ruth G. Waddy in 1969. The original two volumes featured the works and words of over 150 actively producing artists of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.

Now, over 40 years later, BLACK ARTISTS ON ART is releasing new volumes of the book that highlight black artists who have redefined what it means to be a black artist while still preserving the traditions of African cultural expression.

BLACK ARTISTS ON ART is currently accepting artist submissions for Volumes 3 & 4 of the book.

                               Black Artists on Art Books

                                                          Black Artists on Art: Then and Now    

When the first of two volumes titled Black Artists on Art appeared in 1969 it was the height of the Black Arts Movement in America. Artists Samella Lewis and Ruth Waddy edited those two volumes and it cannot be emphasized enough how dynamic it was for two Black women to take on the task of historicizing contemporary Black art at that time. Waddy had already made her mark in documenting the contributions of Black artists by being one of the authors of Prints by American Negro Artists in 1967. The rst issue of the journal Black Art an International Quarterly wouldn’t appear until 1976 which is a good indication of how far ahead of the curve Waddy and Lewis were when they compiled Black Artists on Art. Black Artists on Art with its focus on contemporary Black art as a publication was the tipping point that made journals such as The International Review of African American Art and Nka Journal of Contemporary African Art a viable notion from that point forward. It was primarily Lewis and Waddy’s books that documented the visual expression of the Black Arts Movement – most signi cantly the output of Black west coast visual artists such as David Hammons, John Outterbridge, Betty Saar and Noah Purifoy.

To its credit Black Artists on Art placed the visual aesthetic of the Black Arts Movement era in a signi cant historical context from its own subjective contemporaneous view – as opposed to a retrospective historicity or a history from those outside of the Black aesthetic movements of that time. The in uence of Black Artists on Art was felt some four decades after its publication when curator Kellie Jones’ landmark exhibit “Now Dig This: Art & Black Los Angeles 1960-1980” appeared in 2012. Not only were copies of the two volumes exhibited in the show but David Hammons’ body print art piece titled “America the Beautiful” – rst seen represented in Black Artists on Art – became the emblematic image for Jones’ brilliant retrospective by occupying banners all across Los Angeles during the exhibit. The book Black Artists on Art signi cantly documents several of Oakland’s Black artists such as Casper Banjo, David Bradford, Marie Calloway, Margo Humphrey, Arthur Monroe, Raymond Howell, Ben Hazard and Phillip Mason – who’s painting “Woman as Body Spirit” graces the cover of volume one’s revised edition. It seems profoundly appropriate to envision a 21st century manifestation of Black Artists on Art here in Oakland California.

– Duane Deterville


Unity and Samella LewisUnity Lewis and Dr. Samella Lewis


                                                                   THE LEGACY CONTINUES

I wanted to make a chronology of African American artists, and artists of African descent, to document our history. The historians weren’t doing it. I felt it better the artists do it anyway, through pictorial and written information. I thought it was absolutely necessary, not just for the public but for artists, to know what was going on. In my opinion, the artists were the people who documented our history better than anybody else. A lot was going on culturally. Blacks were rebelling and revolting and doing things that they hadn’t done before. I felt we had to do something. I created these books to inform artists, and inspire them to be participants in the movement. It was really about the movement.

-Dr. Samella S. Lewis

More than forty years after the release of the second volume of Black Artist on Art, I have come to preserve and continue the legacy. A legacy that represents more than just the work of my grandmother Dr. Samella Lewis; but the legacy of the Black Arts Movement (BAM), it’s growth and development, over the decades. Like so many of my fellow artists, I am proof that BAM has been moving like the underground railroad. The fact that Black people continue to face the same issues in today’s society that our predecessors faced in the sixties, indicates to me, that we must relentlessly press on. The struggle continues, as black people in the Diaspora address the same beast of discrimination that continues to threaten our lives, and the wellbeing of our children.

We are still a marginalized people whose historical contribution is not properly taught in schools. Our accomplishments are undermined, while our creative genius is routinely plagiarized. Our blood flows daily in the streets of this still segregated nation, at the hands of a system that has no regard for us. A system that has no intention of seeing us living out our full potential. It is now, as it has always been, up to us to protect and preserve our legacy, culture and story. We take on this responsibility so that future generations will understand, with accuracy, the heritage that so many of our heroes have sacrificed their lives to bequeath to us.

– Unity Lewis

                        Black Artists On Art_Brochure_REVISED (dragged) 2

The Black Artists on Art Legacy Exhibit at Oakstop Gallery served as the kickoff for a campaign to produce new volumes in the Black Artists on Art book series and recruit over 500 black artists across the United States to demonstrate their creativity in this ongoing legacy. Furthermore, this exhibit is intended to form a community of support around the Black Artists on Art brand to extend it beyond books.

                             To accomplish this, we will need YOU to support Black Artists on Art.

Black Artists On Art_Brochure_REVISED (dragged) 3 copyBlack Artists On Art_Brochure_REVISED (dragged)

                                E-mail all submissions to:


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