Introduction

Callaloo, a "journal of Afro-American and African arts and letters" was founded in 1976, in Baton Rouge. Currently housed in and sponsored by the University of Virginia, the journal is edited by University professor Charles Rowell, and published by the Johns Hopkins University Press.

An influential forum for literary, historical, and artistic scholarship, Callaloo provides a valuable resource for study of twentieth century African-American art. The journal's cover artwork consists of images created from the 1920s to the present, and insightful interviews with influential African-American artists appear within Callaloo.

This site examines the cover artwork of Callaloo, from its founding in 1976, to the latest issues. The works are organized into eight galleries, each centered around a theme or dilemma in African-American art:

The first three galleries explore artistic medium and genre as influences on African-American art. Gallery 1, "Double Exposures: Photographic Iterations of Reality," explores stylistic methods used by photographers to portray the African-American experience. Gallery 2, "Notable Men, Invisible Women: Portraiture and African-American Identity" explores portraits as a genre through which notions of black male and female identitiy are articulated and shaped. Gallery 3, "The Color Line: Race in the Graphic Arts," examines the traditional forms of cover design and magazine illustration, as included in, and expanded by, Callaloo.

Galleries 4, 5, and 6 examine artistic style as a force in African-American art. "Influence/Inspiration" reveals the dilemma African-American artists faced with the rise of Cubism and Modernism. Although the artists acknowledged as pioneers of these movements, notably Picasso and Matisse, had been influenced by African artistic forms, African-Americans who painted in these styles were accused of mimicking their European peers. Similarly, "African-American, in the Abstract" explores the debate stemming from some African-American artists' use of Abstract Expressionism. Although African-American Abstract Expressionists gained unprecedented acceptance in the "mainstream" artistic community, many of their peers criticized them for a failure to portray explicitly African-American issues. Finally, "'Black is a Color'" takes a cue from African-American artist Raymond Saunders' essay, and from his philosophy that "racial hang-ups are extraneous to art." Nevertheless, although the vibrant works in this gallery definitely emphasize the visual pleasure associated with viewing art, they are neither racially uninformed, nor irrelevant.

Galleries 7 and 8 explore two strains in choice of subject matter for African-American art. "'The Negro Soul'" exemplifies the tradition of looking to African and folk forms of art as a foundation for African-American art. "The Black Image" includes self-assured representations of African-Americans, and of the African-American body, which are nevertheless universally aesthetic, and relevant to the modern American experience.

An essay opens each gallery, and the cover artwork can be viewed by scrolling from left to right. Captions indicating Callaloo issue in which this image appeared, artist, title, date, and medium, accompany each cover image. Unfortunately, dates of creation are unknown for many of these works.

When an article relevant to an edition's cover artwork appeared within Callaloo, the image's caption links to a hypertext of the article.

Galleries | Articles | Resources