“Ain’t nothing but the frame.” Hamza Walker’s quotable summation of the difference between so-called “black vernacular art” and “fine art” teasingly skirted a value assessment of what goes in the frame itself. This was the overwhelming consensus among panelists gathered last Thursday to discuss how some artworks are defined as black, vernacular, or both, and possibly neither.
The panel’s contemporary read of the term “vernacular” added a new way to think about the overwrought “outsider artist” divide. Although there was uniform understanding of the importance of the term by the panelists at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art—including Walker, Fo Wilson, Krista Franklin, and moderator Lee Ann Norman—the word was not fully defined. Instead, characterizations of “Black Vernacular Art” included assemblage techniques, “gut-bucket funky from around the way” materials (Walker again), and influences from hip-hop, regional African-American dialects, hair weaves, bottle trees, yard shows, face jugs, Robert Rauschenberg’s “Combines,” and a grandmother’s quilt. Read the rest of this entry »