This episode was originally posted on the Fresh Art International podcast.

What does it mean to be Black in 21st century America? The expression of Blackness in art has a history of intricate connections to civil rights and social movements. In the United States and abroad, painting and drawing, filmmaking and photography, performance and protest have long represented diverse creative perspectives on the volatile subject of race and identity in this country.

Today, we hear from curators and artists whose work directly engages with race and American identity. Individually and collectively, they generate “freestyle” expressions of Blackness—revealing that no matter how history influences the Black cultural space, identity remains a fluid form in the hands of contemporary artists.

Theaster Gates, Dorchester Projects, Chicago. Image courtesy Fresh Art International.

Amy Sherald, “The Make Believer (Monet’s Garden).” Image courtesy Fresh Art International.

Sound Editor: Anamnesis Audio | Photos courtesy of featured artists and the Renaissance Society

Featured Audio: Thelma Golden Talk, Crystal Bridges Museum of American ArtHamza Walker Keynote, Black Is, Black Ain’t Symposium, Renaissance SocietyJohanne Rahaman field recordings in South FloridaTheaster Gates at Katzen Arts Center, American UniversityTheaster Gates performs at Huguenot House in Kassel, Germany, for documenta 13Sanford Biggers, BAM (For Michael)Fahamu Pecou, All that Glitters Ain’t GoalsAmy Sherald at Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago 

Related Episodes: Modern Black Portrait of FloridaJefferson Pinder on Symbols of Power and StruggleTheaster Gates on Meaning, Making and ReconciliationSanford Biggers on Time and the Human ConditionAmy Sherald on New Racial NarrativesFahamu Pecou on Art x Hip-Hop

Header image: Rashaad Newsome, “King Of Arms,” single-channel video installation with sound, custom artist frame and hand carved crown sculpture with automotive paint, artist textile and HD rear projection screen 2015, detail, dimensions vary.

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