Sometimes referred to as “the artistic sister of the Black Power Movement” the Black Arts Movement (BAM) arose in the mid 1960’s to develop a poetic/artistic statement that not only provided a means of black existence in America, but also provided a “change of vision” in the perception of African American identity. Much like the New Negro Movement, the Black Arts Movement was a flourishing time of artistic exertion among African American musicians, poets, playwrights, writers, and visual artists who understood that their artistic production could be the key to revising stereotypes of African American subordinacy (Neal). Through looking at the enriching artworks by David Hammons, Jeff Donaldson, and Adrian Piper, it can be understood that
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The main goal most BAM artists had was to create a humanistic visual statement, that identified their problems, offered solutions to those problems, and educated viewers of their past, present, and future(Hogu). Hammons, Donaldson, and Piper each demonstrate a significant participation in the Black Arts Movement through their various artworks.
In David Hammons’ “Spade (Power to the Spade)”, Hammons literally uses his own body as a printing plate. Coating his skin with margarine and then pressing his greased body against the paper, Hammons signifies power through his body. Spade represents a scenario in which Hammons body is inscribed with the racist stereotype of the spade (Wofford 111). Hammons used his artwork as a medium for communication, being that the figures in his art were surrounded by a beguiling ambiguity. His use of imprints of the body was known to encourage viewers to imagine a presence that is not physically primitive, but whose very existence seems so vehemently insisted upon by the bodies that literally press themselves against the picture plane (Wofford 101). Not only striving for black power, Adrian Piper signified both racial, and gender equality. In 1972, Piper periodically dressed as a persona called the Mythic Being, which became a paradoxical figure of liberation.