African American Art from Saint Louis

Suggested Reading

The exhibition themes — shine, citizenship, growth, beauty, reading & leisure, the sonic, and quietness & interiority — further elaborate the central concepts including abstraction, blackness, and Saint Louis.

Abstraction as a concept centers ideas; as an aesthetic practice abstraction decenters representation, and often indexes abstract expressionism, the post-WWII aesthetic movement marked by non-figurative paintings which were often attached to white male artists working in New York City. Thus abstraction has never been purely aesthetic, but rather always also political, racial, temporal, and geographic. This exhibition reconsiders abstraction so: as an aesthetic form, but also as a geographic and temporal form emerging from the early 21st century Saint Louis MO/IL region, and doing so amidst endless anti-Black political regimes therein. In the abstracted aesthetics that “negotiate and exhaust … Black representation” (Adrienne Edwards), the work of the exhibition artists — as cultural historian Salamishah Tillet has suggested — provides a central place to conceptualize and articulate what Black citizenship might be, especially amidst regimes of anti-Black racism. Here are suggested articles, books, and other resources that inform this exhibition.

All works below have influenced the exhibition. *Starred works are directly cited in the exhibition.

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Academic Articles/Chapters

*Kelly Chung, “The defiant still worker: Ramiro Gomez and the expressionism of abstract labor.” Women & Performance 29.1 (2019): 62-76.

Percy Green II, Robin D. G. Kelley, Tef Poe, George Lipsitz, and Jamala Rogers with Elizabeth Hinton, “Generations of Struggle,” Transition No. 119, Afro-Asian Worlds (2016), pp. 9-16.

George Lipsitz, “Like A Weed in a Vacant Lot: The Black Artists Group in St. Louis,Decomposition: Post-disciplinary performance. Edited by Sue-Ellen Case, Philip Brett, Susan Leigh Foster. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2000.

*Uri McMillan, “Introduction: Skin, Surface, Sensorium,” in Women & Performance 28.1 (March 2018): 1-15.

Tef Poe, “Ferguson: An Identity Politics Liberation Manifesto,” in Biography 41.4 (Fall 2018): 958-981.

Leigh Raiford, “Burning All Illusion: Abstraction, Black Life, and the Unmaking of White Supremacy,” Art Journal 79.4 (December 2020): 76-91.

*Sarah Stefana Smith, “Surface play: rewriting black interiorities through camouflage and abstraction in Mickalene Thomas’s oeuvre,” in Women & Performance 28.1 (March 2018): 46-64.

*Debra Thompson, “An Exoneration of Black Rage,” South Atlantic Quarterly 116.3 (2017): 457-481.

Rhaisa Kameela Williams, “Choreographies of the Ongoing: Episodes of Black Life, Events of Black Lives,” in Biography 41.4 (Fall 2018): 760-776.


*Tina Campt, Listening to Images. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2017.

Philip Brian Harper, Abstractionist Aesthetics: Artistic Form and Social Critique in African American Culture. New York, NY: NYU Press, 2015.

Richard Iton, In Search of the Black Fantastic: Politics & Popular Culture in the Post-Civil Rights Era, Oxford University Press, 2008.

Walter Johnson, The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States. New York: Basic Books, 2020.

Benjamin Looker, Point from which creation begins: The Black Artists’ Group of St. Louis. Missouri Historical Society and University of Missouri Press, 2004.

Sharrell D.Luckett, Editor. African American Arts: Activism, Aesthetics, and Futurity. Lewisburg, Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press, 2019.

Uri McMillan, Embodied Avatars: Genealogies of Black Feminist Art and Performance. New York: NYU Press, 2015.

*Amber Musser, Sensual Excess: Queer Femininity and Brown Jouissance. New York: NYU Press, 2018.

*Kevin Quashie, The Sovereignty of Quiet: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2012, 1-26.

*Krista Thompson, Shine: The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2015.

*Salamishah Tillet, Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the Post-Civil Rights Imagination. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2012.

Art Criticism, Interviews & News Articles

The African-American Art Shaping the 21st Century,The New York Times, 19 March 2020.

Willis Ryder Arnold, “Rising artists want viewers to focus on art, not only their race,” St. Louis Public Radio, 8 June 2017.

Chloë Bass, “Can Abstraction Help Us Understand the Value of Black Lives?,Hyperallergic, 28 July 2016.

*Adrienne Edwards, “Blackness in Abstraction,” Art in America, January 2015, 62-69.

Vinsom Cunningham, “Can Black Art Ever Escape the Politics of Race,” The New York Times, 20 August 2015.

Olubukola A. Gbadegesin, “Damon Davis’s Negrophilia: Encounters with Black Death,Art Journal Open, 30 August 2017.

*Faye Gleisser, “How Many Licks? II (Conditioned No. 13,763),” Black One Shot Series in ASAP/J Online, 4 June 2018.

Lara Hamdan, “New Harvard Fellowship Boosts 6 St. Louis Visual Artists,” St. Louis Public Radio, 22 Jan. 2020.

Jorie Jacobi, “10 Black Artists To Know In St. Louis Right Now,” Alive Magazine, 22 September 2017.

James McAnally, “A Radical Black Arts Renaissance Is Reshaping a Fractured St. Louis,” Vice, 9 July 2018.

Kelly Moffit, “For St. Louis artist-activist De Nichols, sticky notes, community dinners & dialogue bridge divides,” St. Louis Public Radio, 22 January 2020.

Seph Rodney, “How to Embed a Shout: A New Generation of Black Artists Contends with Abstraction,” Hyperallergic, 23 August 2017.

Rafael Francisco Salas, “Obscuring Assumed Identity: A Review of Chambers and Weinberg at Hawthorn Contemporary,” New City Art, 5 November 2019.

Hilarie M. Sheets, “The Changing Complex Profile of Black Abstract Painters,” Art News 4 June 2014.