Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts and the black revolution
Artist in an age of revolution: a symposium, pp. - PDF (25.6 MB)
224 Although I respect the Negro writer, I have yet to observe any concern on his part for Negro involvement in the other arts. (The exception may be in the musical or performing arts.) But he is a purveyor of the culture, the problem. His work, at present, seems to serve more of a social than an artistic purpose. He probably comes closest to communicating the real so-called social (racial) issues of our day with his media. Does this split described above necessarily imply an irreconcilable option or is there a tenable position which lies somewhere between? What is a "tenable position?" Do you mean to ask if a Negro artist accepts a position of compromise? I venture to answer no. He creates as he wills. And whatever he produces has to do with American society, with all that this implies. Do you think there is a special relationship that the Negro artist has to American society? Everything the Negro artist does has to do with his image of himself and his aspirations. It involves human as well as racial fulfillment. The Negro artist faces all the "artistic," hence, economic and cultural problems all artists face. But for the Negro artist these problems are aggravated by the fact that the "power structure" of the art world is not altogether prepared to accept him as "just another artist," particularly in the visual arts. They still desire, seemingly, a non-white quality (not to say "Negroness") which presents the Negro artist as being unique and therefore different from other artists. Let's not fool ourselves- it is difficult, almost impossible, in our day and time, to separate artistic or creative power from material or political power - at least from an implementary point of view. All history bears this out. Destroy the arts of a people and you destroy the embodiment of his gods and his spirit. The Spaniards in South America knew this. The European who came face to face with the Indian knew it, as well as the European who colonized Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The Indian in America and his art are finished. The Asian artist is on the "bandwagon" (though tenuously) of Western art. The African artist is at a crossroad of artistic expression. He is "up a tree." As for the present-day American Negro artist, his plight is no less confusing, but his outlook seems more realistic. Karl Shapiro, the poet, has said: "It is not a coherent picture, but one thing is true: the urge is downward, not up. Not up to the elites. The gravity of American creativity is downwards, toward 'the darker bloods,' as Lawrence would put it. Maybe the pale white Anglo-Saxon elite has had it." Do you think this is to any degree true? Please comment. Perhaps Mr. Shapiro is right, but much more is involved. The artist of color in America is an American. He has dark blood, but is also exposed to the artistic culture of the West. This is the problem. It is not really a question of "dark blood" in art; it is a matter of the power structure of art and its relation to the material, political and social power structure. Who knows the answer?