Black Arts at OxyMain MenuIntroductionAmy Lyford's introduction to Art History 389 class projectWorks in the ExhibitionClose inspection of artists' works in contextBlack Arts, Culture and Community at Occidental: 1969-1972Landing page for Oxy historical context for the exhibition and the culture re: black student experience + curriculumBlack Arts, Culture and Community in Los Angeles: 1969-1972Landing page for research about the broader cultural, political, and artistic context in LA, 1969-1972BibliographyAll sources for the current iteration of Black Arts at OxyAmy Lyford7f58938a63eff8db4092d452d1f6451c2056d580Allison Wendt5f609f9e327122da9a07a273744d9e6d158702fcLeila Wang57ba150afc9b24810f035018ea1dcdcf8ac91999Christina Sabinf0fc1c7a57adf43a59c2ba72758e45fee772e3d4Vanessa Toddd44a174f5c0bf51566a0822429f8a0c533cf973bKellen Holte3d1dbad48f5400866a6acd47d4afed94700451aJennifer Keane585455368ba9baefcc126fd1c8f4bd3f64c3e50dSophia McGintye2afbd2b58ee1a169801b7d90740468951cc4d86Katherine Torrey6fe8a07abe4c528e68021a61b56ce660c8aa4882Emily Dwyer5902de6501051e6518d15bf822af5ad8e1c359d9Chloe Welmond980bbb8a8d7c8a417dc46daa91a71eecefd4118aKailee Stovalle823ac3a96f225f888ac5f74bc901add983ccdcfJocelyn Lob248c946ca9bbc33f02e61d9487c6b7452c7ed45
12016-12-09T11:36:54-08:00Leila Wang57ba150afc9b24810f035018ea1dcdcf8ac91999David Bradford Arrives to OaklandLeila Wang4plain2016-12-09T11:43:39-08:00Leila Wang57ba150afc9b24810f035018ea1dcdcf8ac91999
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12016-11-22T15:25:28-08:00David P. Bradford, "YES, LEROI," 196824Landing page for artist David P. Bradfordplain2016-12-19T07:39:25-08:00YES, LEROI is a painting by Los Angeles artist David Bradford that was shown during the Black Art: The Black Experience exhibition at Occidental College in 1971. The work depicts a young African-American man with his head tilted backwards, eyes fixed on a burning American flag. On the young man's shirt is a clouded depiction of a young Leroi Jones, also known as Amiri Baraka. Baraka was an African-American writer and activist whose work focused on liberation from the racism and violence waged against people of color. Jones and the flag are painted in black and white with hints of brown and yellow that accent his facial features. The additional use of red and orange along the stripes of the flag create the image of it being on fire, hinting toward the flag's future destruction. Along with the burning of the American flag, the backward orientation is used as a symbol of protest toward the oppressive values of white American on African-American citizens. Bradford’s use of composition, light, and limited palette creates a violent, yet hopeful voice in the struggle for freedom.
Bradford uses his imagery wisely, employing references to Leroi Jones with the known symbol of the American flag, as a collage on canvas. These images are included with careful purpose and placement—they have pre-established connotations and meanings. For example, Leroi's face on the shirt alludes to the more militaristic and sometimes violent philosophies for black unity and liberation. In a way, YES, LEROI is a call to arms for artists to protest against the oppression that the flag represents. Rather than creating “art for art’s sake”, Bradford finds it imperative to depict a black narrative countering American patriotism. This is how he makes his art political, as the black experience is in itself political in America. In the artist’s own words: "Only when we omit the desire to make it in the white man’s art world, only when we omit the desire to place the making of money first with our art, can we produce a popular art, a black art, an art that speaks to and for the black people…I want to show the inner beauty and strength of black Americans and glorify those black people who have contributed so much to our people."
That the piece makes a nod to Leroi Jones (later changed his name to Amiri Baraka) by first name alone is telling:YES, LEROI made its debut in the nexus of the Black Arts Movement itself, wherein Jones was so integral and ubiquitously present that no surname would have been necessary. It was an era where slogans such as “arm yourself or harm yourself” were prevalent, and Jones himself had been arrested and convicted (later overturned) for possession of illegal firearms, while participating in 1967’s Newark Rebellion.(1) He later quipped that he’d been accused for holding "two revolvers and two poems." (2) These words exemplify the relationship he saw between his art and his actions: inextricably unified. In Black Art (1965), he declared: “We want poems that kill.” After his sentencing, Jones penned Black People (1967), in which he delivered a line that became infamous (notably, after it was read aloud by a judge in court): "All the stores will open if you say the magic words. The magic words are: ‘Up against the wall motherfucker this is a stick up!’” (3) As a prolific artist, writer, publisher and social critic, Jones was a major leader of the Black Arts movement. Although controversial, his incendiary clarion call was heard throughout its constituent communities: leading up to and through Bradford’s debut of YES, LEROI in 1970.
Page created by Kellen Holt, Christina Sabin, and Leila Wang in December 2016.
Sources: (1) Amiri Baraka: The Politics and Art of a Black Intellectual", by Jerry Watts, pg 299 (2) Gates (2014). The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. p. 542. (3) A phrase co-opted by the Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers and used as a slogan by other radical groups.