731-W212 Part A

731-W212 4


Part A

Identity in art has a long history and is conveyed in unique ways.For many centuries, scientists, philosophers and historians has beentermed as artists in their own fields. However, the type of art thatwe will be discussing is the art that brings out a concept ofidentity. The type of art that students admire and wish to beassociated with includes the heroic generation of abstractexpressionist painters. This type of art arose after the Second WorldWar and strove to express personal feelings of artists as well astheir sense of radical individuality. Expressing the true nature ofthe self was one of the objectives of expressionist painters. MarkRothko and Pollock are amongst the artists who believed that the truenature of the self was self-directed and represented freeindividuals. They were greatly influenced by the existentialistphilosophy and Jungian psychology that held up an ideal of a stable,unique and integrated self who acted independently. For other artistslike Claire, liberal humanism represents the true inner self and isan art that explains identity as self-knowledge in thought andconsciousness. Artists thus express themselves with regard to anindividual sense of self or in terms of the communal.

Part B

To understand the role of identity for arts and artists, we willreview two different artists whose work is appealing, intriguing andprovocative with regard to how they address identity in their work.This will be done by comparing the different conceptual approachestaken in creating their art and the purposes they have for it. “Kerry James Marshall has made the present day culture andAfrican Americans his primary subject matter.” The Americanpainter has managed to create intriguing symbolic paintings andcomplicated narratives exploring identity amongst African Americans.In his paintings, virtually all the figures have dark skin thatappears inky. “He intensely repeats one tone and seems toidentify blackness as a concept and color that is fundamental to theAfrican Americans.” Marshall’s style exaggerates on the skintone functions ambiguously. The representation of blackness in hispaintings simultaneously registers as a dark face echo representingthe pop culture. Marshall’s art gives the Africans an identity andis a celebration of black colors distinct formal beauty. It alsoplays the sociological concept role of black America. Thecontemporary artist explores identity through black artisticexpressions that contribute to shaping the viewers identity of theblacks also referred to as African Americans. The African Americancommunal identity is evident in Marshall’s art as a large group ofblacks can identify with the paintings (Identity, 49). Marshall andLyle vary in that while Marshall uses black painting as his mainidentity art aspect, Lyle uses self-portrait photography and art foridentity.

“Lyle Harris Ashton is another renowned American artist who hasused self-portrait photography in his work for the past two decades.”She incorporates self-portrait photography in his art to investigateidentity-complicated issues of sexual orientation, race, and gender.Ashton uses makeup, gestures, costumes and various poses todeconstruct binary codes such as male vs. female, black vs. white.Some of his self-portrait photos have feminine identities such assupermodels and seem to contradict the femininity of the poses byrevealing anatomically male torso. “Memoirs of Hadrianis one of Harris 20 by 24 inch Polaroid’s borrowed from the 1951novel that was written by Marguerite Yourcenar.” One of themost intriguing works of Harris is the bare-chested prizefighterwearing ever last gloves. This piece of art illustrates a bruised,isolated, tormented and bloodied fighter. It demonstrates thehistorical role of boxing. Sports and boxing have a cultural identityin the African American culture of displaying manhood, prowess andvitality (Identity, 50-52).


Identity, Chapter 2 pp.49-70

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