May 10, 2024

Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw's The Art of Remembering: Essays on African American Art and History makes Hyperallergic's 14 Art Books to Read This Summer

Art historian Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw’s The Art of Remembering: Essays on African American Art and History takes the reader from the 18th century to the contemporary moment. Along the way, DuBois Shaw shares incisive criticism of the aesthetics and politics surrounding pivotal moments in Black art and representation throughout history. Topics range from early Black American portraiture and landscapes to modern sculpture, Mexican muralism, Hurricane Katrina, and contemporary artists including Carrie Mae Weems and Barbara Chase-Riboud. Organized into three parts, “Past as Prelude,” “Modern Blackness,” and “Beginning Again,” each section tackles the multi-faceted historical and political conditions for artistic forms of representation. Interestingly, the book closes with “What Deana Lawson Wants,” which builds on the author’s heavily debated Hyperallergic essay from 2021 and recalls another controversy in Black art history publishing surrounding Lawson from three years earlier, which raises questions about voyeurism, respectability, the White gaze, and the difficulty of when artists and art historians have contrasting views. For those interested in African-American art history and anyone following how this dialogue has unfolded over the years, it is worth grabbing a copy of DuBois Shaw’s latest collection and diving deeper into both the historic and contemporary stakes of Black art and representation.  —Alexandra M. Thomas