Polarization
Polarization

This image appears in The International Review of African American Art vol.15, 1998.


In a 1972 letter to fellow African American artist and art historian, David C. Driskell, Claude Clark, Sr wrote: "Today, [the black artist] has reached the phase of Political Realism where his art becomes even more functional. He not only presents the condition but names the enemy and directs us towards a plan of action in search of our own roots and eventual liberation."

Presenting the condition, naming the enemy, and directing a plan of action are clearly the functional features of Polarization. Depicting a black man arm wrestling Uncle Sam, Claude presents African American life in opposition to white America; he specifically identifies the American government as the "enemy," and he points to direct confrontation as the mode of socio-political struggle. While Polorization portrays a confrontation still in action, Claude's iconography foreshadows the "American" victor. Linking African American's struggle for civil rights with the American Revolution, the American flag placed on the "side" of the black man indicates his eventual victory over the "monarchy" of white America. (Note the crown beneath Uncle Sam's bench.)

Quote taken from Two Centuries of Black American Art, pg. 180

Claude Clark, Sr
painter, draftsman, and educator

Clark was born in Rockingham, Georgia in 1915. He trained at the Philadelphia Museum School and the Barnes Foundation, an institue founded during the Harlem Renaissance for the study of African art. In 1958, he received his B.A. from Sacramento State College. Four years later, he earned an M.A. from the University of California and began teaching at San Francisco State College

Bridging the divide between the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement, Clark's paintings generally represent black genre in an effort to construct art of socio-political import. His work, with characteristically basic design and color format, offer easily translatable stories that "mirror societal ideals and values."

A number of Claude's paintings from the 1960s are included in the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio, an institute which showcases African American Art of the Black Arts Movement.

BACK