In this book, art historian Darby English explores the year 1971, when two exhibitions opened that brought modernist painting and sculpture into the burning heart of United States cultural politics: Contemporary Black Artists in America, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and The DeLuxe Show, a racially integrated abstract art exhibition presented in a renovated movie theater in a Houston ghetto. 1971: A Year in the Life of Color looks at many black artists' desire to gain freedom from overt racial representation, as well as their efforts<U+2014>and those of their advocates<U+2014>to further that aim through public exhibition. Amid calls to define a black aesthetic, these experiments with modernist art prioritized cultural interaction and instability. 'Contemporary Black Artists in America' highlighted abstraction as a stance against normative approaches, while 'The DeLuxe Show' positioned abstraction in a center of urban blight. The importance of these experiments, English argues, came partly from color's special status as a cultural symbol and partly from investigations of color already under way in late modern art and criticism. With their supporters, black modernists<U+2014>among them Peter Bradley, Frederick Eversley, Alvin Loving, Raymond Saunders, and Alma Thomas<U+2014>rose above the demand to represent or be represented, compromising nothing in their appeals for interracial collaboration and, above all, responding with optimism rather than cynicism to the surrounding culture<U+2019>s preoccupation with color.
Introduction: Social experiments with modernism -- The figure of the black modernist -- Making a show of discomposure: Contemporary Black Artists in America -- Local color and its discontents: the DeLuxe show -- Appendix: Raymond Saunders, Black is a color
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