My research focuses on African American visual art and literature in the twentieth century. I am particularly interested in how ideas of artistic freedom – particularly formal experimentation and abstraction – can be explored within the broader context of the African American freedom movements during the civil rights era.
My forthcoming monograph entitled Maximising Freedom: African American Art, 1945-1970 (under contract to University Press of Mississippi)examines the synergy between ideas of aesthetic and political freedom in the work of African American visual artists. Given the formal developments in American art, and the civil rights history of the postwar period, African American artists responded to a complex set of demands in their work. The book explores how visual artists such as Norman Lewis, Romare Bearden, and Hale Woodruff challenged this understanding of art, as either aesthetically driven or socially engaged, and the narrow definitions of artistry that such a dichotomy imposes.