February 2, 2021 –
“Tropicality and Modernism: Wifredo Lam’s and Josephine Baker’s Radical Musings with the Tropical Terrain.”
Associate Professor of Art History
Wayne State University
Tuesday, February 2, 2021
11:30 AM -1:00 PM
This talk explores aspects of Noel’s book, Tropical Aesthetics of Black Modernism (Duke University Press, February 2021). It offers an investigation of how Caribbean and American artists of the early twentieth century were responding to the colonial and hegemonic regimes through visual and performative tropicalist representation. It privileges the land and how a sense of place is critical in the identity formation of early twentieth-century artists as well as their creative processes. By proposing an alternative understanding of the tropics, this talk demonstrates how Wifredo Lam and Josephine Baker effectively contributed to the development of Black modernity, and even Black sonic modernity. They employed what Noel calls “tropical aesthetics” in an effort to enact the naming of place. Tropical aesthetics allows for a critical imaging and reclaiming of space and proves how through art one can reify social geographies in order to have a sense of place, a rootedness that is desired in order to attain some semblance of sovereignty.