Steven Nelson

Associate Professor of African and African American Art History, University of California, Los Angeles


2014-2015: Cohen Fellowship

Mapping Blackness in African and Afro-Atlantic Art

Project Description

Mapping Blackness in African and Afro-Atlantic Art

Mapping Blackness in African and Afro-Atlantic Art, explores the work of a group of contemporary African and Afro-Atlantic artists, including Mark Bradford, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Houston Conwill, Moshekwa Langa, and Julie Mehretu, who employ mapping and geography to address key concerns in their work. While all of these artists’ strategies engage notions of site, place, and affiliation, in the meeting places of mapping and blackness, they produce works of unique visual power and complexity that reshape our understanding of African ancestry, African American history, notions of diaspora, and urban spaces. This project understand maps as systems that structure the physical world, offering to their viewers official records that normalize not only their sense of a given place but also its ideological structure. Mapping Blackness offers rigorous and nuanced analyses of artists’ understanding of blackness, place, politics, and ancestry in different African and Afro-Atlantic contexts, showing how the invocation of the tools of the cartographer and geographer, undermine the authority of maps, ultimately allowing for a better understanding of the complex terrain in which contemporary African and Afro-Atlantic artists work.

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