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Cover of Joyce J. Scott: Harriet Tubman and Other Truths (2018)


Culture Type Picks: 18 Best Black Art Books of 2018
By Victoria L. Valentine
January 4, 2019

THE INCREASED INTEREST among some museums in mounting exhibitions featuring the work of African American artists has translated into a growing number of catalogs published to document them, which is wonderful. Many of those catalogs made Culture Type’s 2018 list of best illustrated art books, along with a few monographs, and a volume documenting a private collection. The selected titles were chosen based on how they stood up as individual publications, not because they accompanied a “groundbreaking” exhibition or featured the work of an “important” artist. Each volume provides an absorbing experience and captures its subject in a thoughtful, informative, and accessible manner, often with an elevated design. As an added bonus, many include insights from other artists. For instance, Henry Taylor’s monograph features a conversation between Taylor and Charles Gaines; Rashid Johnson and Lynette Yiadom-Boakeye contributed to Sam Gilliam’s exhibition catalog; and Kerry James Marshall wrote the introduction to the catalog for Charles White’s retrospective. The Best Black Art Books of 2018 are volumes you would want to actually read, in addition to leafing through the beautiful images. (Titles listed in order of publication date.)

3. Joyce J. Scott: Harriet Tubman and Other Truths

BEAUTY, WIT AND TURMOIL co-exist in the imaginative beadwork of Baltimore artist Joyce J. Scott. Her figurative sculptures, wall hangings and jewelry address politics, racism, violence, and gender issues. A number of works honor the legacy of Harriet Tubman as both a symbolic and historic figure, hence the name of her recent, and most ambitious, exhibition presented at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, N.J. Published to accompany “Harriet Tubman and Other Truths,” this catalog is the most comprehensive volume to date documenting Scott’s work. Rife with full-color images of her artwork, installation views, and documentary photographs, the volume features a wide-ranging conversation with the artist conducted by curator Lowery Stokes Sims. Scott talks about how the 2015 death of Freddie Gray while in police custody affected her community, learning to create with beads from her mother, and honing her glasswork skills in Seattle, Wash., Deer Isle, Maine, and Murano, Italy.

“I’d like my art to induce people to stop raping, torturing, and shooting each other. I don’t have the ability to end violence, racism, and sexism…but my art can help them look and think.” — Artist Joyce J. Scott

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