The 30th Annual James A. Porter Colloquium on

African American Art and Art of the African Diaspora 

School of Business Auditorium, Howard University

Dates: April 5-7, 2019

(Student Sessions April 4)

Critical In/Sight: Contemporary Developments in the History and Practice of Black Visual Culture

How do artists, art scholars and art administrators proliferate critical sight to help us envision a better world?

As the James A. Porter Colloquium celebrates 30 years, we seek to advance the discourse on African American art and art of the African Diaspora by assessing the state of the field. “Critical In/Sight” will consider how artists and art scholars of the African Diaspora are establishing new frontiers in art criticism as well as socio-cultural critique. Focusing on black visual culture alongside artistic practice, proceedings will explore definitions as well as modes of constructing and practicing critical vision.

Ten years ago, Dr. Floyd Coleman, Porter Colloquium founder, convened the Porter Colloquium under the theme “Trajectories: Discourse and Critique in African American Art & Art of the African Diaspora.” In the spirit of that important theme, the 2019 Porter Colloquium will interrogate “the complexities, the multiple levels of meaning, the subtleties, the contradictions in recent artistic production, art scholarship,” and the critical reception of Black Visual Culture. This colloquium aims to shed light on new critical queries that guide artists, curators and scholars in the production and interpretation of black creative expression.

James A. Porter Book Award Recipients 

Margo Natalie Crawford, Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania,   Black Post-Blackness: The Black Arts Movement and 21st Century Black Aesthetics (2017). 

Margo Natalie Crawford argues that we have misread the Black Arts Movement’s call for blackness. We have failed to see the movement’s anticipation of the “new black” and “post-black.” Black Post-Blackness compares the black avant-garde of the 1960s and 1970s Black Arts Movement with the most innovative spins of twenty-first century black aesthetics. Crawford zooms in on the 1970s second wave of the Black Arts Movement and shows the connections between this final wave of the Black Arts movement and the early years of twenty-first century black aesthetics. She uncovers the circle of black post-blackness that pivots on the power of anticipation, abstraction, mixed media, the global South, satire, public interiority, and the fantastic. Black Post-Blackness compares the black avant-garde of the 1960s and 70s Black Arts movement and some of the most innovative spins of 21st century black aesthetics. Black Arts movement writers and visual artists are compared to a wide range of African American visual artists and writers who are at the forefront of 21st century black aesthetics. She shows that the mood of the 1970s “second wave” of the Black Arts movement is as “black post-black” as the cultural mood of 21st century black aesthetics.

Crawford’s earlier work includes Dilution Anxiety and the Black Phallus (2008) and New Thoughts on the Black Arts Movement (coedited with Lisa Gail Collins, 2006). Her essays appear in a wide range of books and journals, including The Psychic Hold of Slavery, The Trouble With Post-BlacknessWant to Start a Revolution?, The Modernist Party, The Cambridge Companion to American Poetry Post-1945CallalooAmerican LiteratureBlack Renaissance Noire, Black CameraPublishing Blackness, and the exhibition catalog for the 2013 AfriCOBRA exhibit at the DuSable Museum.


Krista A. Thompson,the Weinberg College Board of Visitors Professor and Professor in the Department of Art History, Northwestern University  

Shine: The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice (Duke University Press, 2015)

In Jamaican dancehalls competition for the video camera’s light is stiff, so much so that dancers sometimes bleach their skin to enhance their visibility. In the Bahamas, tuxedoed students roll into prom in tricked-out sedans, staging grand red-carpet entrances that are designed to ensure they are seen being photographed. Throughout the United States and Jamaica friends pose in front of hand-painted backgrounds of Tupac, flashy cars, or brand-name products popularized in hip-hop culture in countless makeshift roadside photography studios. And visual artists such as Kehinde Wiley remix the aesthetic of Western artists with hip-hop culture in their portraiture. In Shine, Krista Thompson examines these and other photographic practices in the Caribbean and United States, arguing that performing for the camera is more important than the final image itself. For the members of these African diasporic communities, seeking out the camera’s light—whether from a cell phone, Polaroid, or video camera—provides a means with which to represent themselves in the public sphere. The resulting images, Thompson argues, become their own forms of memory, modernity, value, and social status that allow for cultural formation within and between African diasporic communities.

Krista Thompson is the Weinberg College Board of Visitors Professor and Professor in the Department of Art History. She is author of An Eye for the Tropics (Duke University Press, 2006), Developing Blackness (The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, 2008), and Shine: The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice (Duke University Press, 2015).

Lifetime Achievement Award Announcement forthcoming