Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Cafe" by William H. Johnson

   This painting shows a man and a woman enjoying each others company in a cafe, as the title implies. They could be friends or lovers but either way the image is quite simple. Its kind of unclear what is on the right side of the table but it is clear that the woman has different colored limbs. To me this is saying that race doesn't matter when you're establishing a relationship with some one, as she is doing with the man. The man seems not interested in her though and this could represent that race does matter to some people when they interact with other people.
  Identification with race is present in this painting. The man is clearly identified as black while the woman doesn't belong to any race. Shes just an oddity of mismatched skin colors. This shows identification with race because she doesn't actually identify with any race at all. I think the woman in the painting represents that race is only a skin color that you were born with and nothing more;the only race that exists is human. While the man represents people who do identify with their 'race' aka skin color.
   I chose this picture because at first I really didn't get it at all. I spent a while trying to figure out why the woman had different colored limbs and why the man didn't. I also chose it because the title is ridiculously simple and doesn't convey anything about the meaning of the painting. The viewer is totally on their own to comprehend it. I wrote about another painting of William H. Johnson's and I like his style so I decided to do another.
   I don't honestly like this painting. I think it's ugly but on the other hand the meaning is totally above and beyond what the viewer would expect. Its not that the artist did a bad job or anything, its just that I can't relate to this painting at all. I think so many things are off like the placement of the limbs is very awkward and out of proportion to the body. I know that's part of the artist's style but still. Also the colors are kind of bland and it doesn't look like they're in a cafe. It looks like they could be sitting in some ones kitchen. Overall it had an interesting meaning but its not interesting to they eye.

"Harlem Street" by William H. Johnson

    There are people crowding the streets, crossing it and walking off into the city. They look sad and drooped over and I think this relates to how there was alot of racism towards black people during the HR so they had a hard time dealing with society.  No doubt they felt sad and alienated because of the discrimination against them. Even though there is alot of action going on in this picture it feels very slow like a dream. Perhaps this represents some deeper meaning that W.H. Johnson felt towards the neighborhood of Harlem.
    I see anger at racism expressed in this painting in a very subtle way. The way the artist portrayed the people makes them look sad and like they don't know where to go. This represents how African Americans were so oppressed and discriminated during this time period they really couldn't go anywhere with dealing with some kind of racism. Also identification with race because this looks like Harlem and that was the main hub for colored people. Notice that all of the people are walking towards each other and in the same general direction. I feel like this means coming together as a whole.
      I chose this painting because its quite unattractive in the best way possible. Its so crude and I love that. It looks like something any person off the street could have painted, someone with no previous art experience. Than again maybe that's just the style William H. Johnson was going for.  I decided to go with this one because its so simple yet expresses so much at the same time. Especially the dull colors with a lot of bright blue that express melancholy.  My favorite part is how there is so much action and movement happening but it somehow feels like its a dream happening in slow motion. The painter emphasizes this by blending all of the traffic and people together at the end of the road in blue paint. Also I like that the sky doesn't have any particular kind of weather, its just white with a scribbled out cloud...which totally contributes to the overall dream-like state.

"The Odyssey" by Romare Bearden

The Odyssey by Romare Bearden
     This painting reflects on how African Americans were suppressed by the white slave traders who took them from Africa. It shows a slave trading ship that has captured a Negro, and the natives on the shore look as if the are pointing and mourning the loss of their kin. It seems like this is when Africa was first discovered, before slavery. The island is totally uncorrupted but the bound person on mast of the ship is a fore warning of the slave trading that is to come.
    The theme of heritage and history is shown here because the painting is about slave trading. Its gruesome how the African American is bound to the flag pole of the ship as if they slave traders are trying to convey a message to the Africans on the shore. It looks like this is the start of the slave trade and everything else that followed after it.
   What really stood out to me about this painting was how gruesomely brutal the scene is which just made me had to choose it. In addition to bluntness of this painting I chose it because I liked the artist's choice of collage for the medium. The bold, solid colors and simple plant patterns drew me in. They figuratively screamed to me 'choose this painting!choose this painting!'
  What I can not get over is that its really gruesome how a person could just be bound to a flag pole like that, almost like an ornament or something. I really don't like this painting because I feel slightly sick every time I see it. Every time it reminds of all the people in the world who have been oppressed. By all standards this is a wonderful piece of art but I can't bring myself to agree with that. 

A Painting from the Harlem Renaissance

-Unfortunately I couldn't find the title or artist for this piece-

  This piece reflects on what life was like for African Americans in Harlem by portraying a scene about community and culture. Its about cherishing one's culture and enjoying the family and friends you were blessed with. Even though this part of the city is a run down mess the people are laughing and having a good time. Here people of all ages can be seen flourishing in the companionship of one another although there environment doesn't look like the best kind of place. The church in the background shows how religion played a huge part in these people's lives as they can be seen coming to and from the church building. This painting suggests that every one is gathered for a religious event at the church seeing as how the men mostly in suits and the women are in nice dresses. Also
 The Harlem Renaissance theme portrayed in this painting is identification with race. Especially in this time period religion played a huge role in a colored person's life. The focal point of this painting is the church although it is subtle. The viewers eye naturally follows the road towards the church and everything in this piece such as the perspective and the buildings lead toward it. This ties into how this painting portrays community; it is saying that church was a large part of community during the Harlem Renaissance time period. It looks like all the people are gathered for a religious service which also shows how important religion was to the Negro community.
  I chose this painting because honestly in was of the most interesting ones that came up under a Google search of 'Harlem Renaissance paintings". Unfortunately I couldn't find the title but that's also part of why I chose it is because I have no hint of how the artist intended this to be interpreted. If there had been a title for it it would have been easier to understand what it was about. Also religion was a large part of the Negro community and this painting accurately portrays that. I thought that it would make for an interesting analysis.  
  I like this painting because of the friendly atmosphere and sense of community it gives off. I think the artist made a good choice with the neutral color palette because it gives the painting a laid back, relaxed feeling. I also like how this painting isn't super refined like how some of the details are kind of rough and the colors aren't completely blended. The perspective is simple but its really well thought out because it leads the viewer's eye straight to the focal point which is the church. I also like it because at first it seemed kind of mysterious to me, like at a first glance it made me wonder why all these people were gathered around and what for.

"Song" by Gwendolyn Bennett

I am weaving a song of waters,
Shaken from firm, brown limbs,
Or heads thrown back in irreverent mirth.
My song has the ush sweetness
Of moist, dark lips
Where hymns keep company
With old forgotten banjo songs.
Abandon tells you
That I sing the heart of race
While sadness whispers
That I am the cry of a soul. . . .
A-shoutin' in de ole camp-meeting-place,
A-strummin' o' de ole banjo.
Singin' in de moonlight,
Sobbin' in de dark.
Singin', sobbin', strummin' slow . . .
Singin' slow, sobbin' low.
Strummin', strummin', strummin' slow . . .
Words are bright bugles
That make the shining for my song,
And mothers hold down babies
To dark, warm breasts
To make my singing sad.
A dancing girl with swaying hips
Sets mad the queen in the harlot's eye.
        Praying slave
        Jazz-band after
        Breaking heart
        To the time of laughter . . .
Clinking chains and minstrelsy
Are wedged fast with melody.
        A praying slave
        With a jazz-band after . . .
        Singin' slow, sobbin' low.
Sun-baked lips will kiss the earth.
Throats of bronze will burst with mirth.
        Sing a little faster,
        Sing a little faster,
   In the poem Song by Gwendolyn Bennett the poet speaks about the music, dance and traditions of African culture. She speaks about the traditional but forgotten songs of her heritage in the beginning but transitions into more detail about how her people were enslaved and supressed starting in the line "praying slave..". Also this poem is about how African people used music and song to fight against oppression. She is saying that as long as she has song and music than she is able to be strong like in the line "A praying slave/With a jazz band after.../Singin' slow ,Singin' low".
    The Harlem Renaissance themes presented in this poem are identification with race and negro heritage and history. In the beginning of the poem the poet speaks about how beautiful the African race is and how she is proud of her heritage. In the lines "That I sing the heart of race" and "Shaken from firm, brown limbs" Bennett identifies herself as a complete part of her race and that she is proud to be who she is. Towards the end of the poem in the lines "Clinking chains and minstrelsy/Are wedged fast with melody./A praying slave" the theme of negro heritage and history is evident because the poet writes about how slavery was gruesome but full of song at the same time. She suggests that although slavery was a gruesome time of oppression it still flourished with music.
    Bennett uses rhyme, imagery, and repetition to help the audience really get a feel for the poem. In the line "My song has the ush sweetness/of moist dark lips" the descriptive language gives the reader a visual image of the beauty of music and the African race. The rhyme used in the poem makes it easier for the reader to comprehend. Like in the lines "Clinking chains and minstrelsy/Are wedged fast with melody" flow easily off of the tongue. Lastly the poet uses repetition to make her point come across as more strong. The lines "Sing a little faster/Sing a little faster/Sing!" are totally burned into the readers mind and repetition is a good way to end this poem.
   I like this poem because Gwendolyn Bennett writes in a style that's easy for me to comprehend but she still gets her message across. The descriptive language she uses gave me a detailed image of what she was describing. I also like how she used rhyme in specific places because it would've been boring had she used it throughout the whole poem. I chose it because I wanted to do a poem that had a deeper meaning than what I got from the first read.