In celebration of Black History Month, we’ll be highlighting a diverse range of books, all written by Black American authors, all of which celebrate and prioritize the 2024 theme, “African Americans and the Arts”. We will be exploring the key influence African Americans have had in the fields of “visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary and other forms of cultural expression.” We’ll be featuring a title every day through the month of February.

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History discusses this years theme stating, “African American art is infused with African, Caribbean, and the Black American lived experiences. In the fields of visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary and other forms of cultural expression, the African American influence has been paramount. African American artists have used art to preserve history and community memory as well as for empowerment. Artistic and cultural movements such as the New Negro, Black Arts, Black Renaissance, hip-hop, and Afrofuturism, have been led by people of African descent and set the standard for popular trends around the world. In 2024, we examine the varied history and life of African American arts and artisans.”

Todays work is Henry Louis Gates Jr., Dieter Buchahart, Franklin Sirmans and Christopher Stackhouse’s Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks. Accompanying a major traveling exhibition, this first-ever survey of the rarely seen notebooks of Basquiat features the artist’s handwritten notes, poems, and drawings, along with related works on paper and large-scale paintings. With no formal training, Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988) succeeded in developing a new and expressive style to become one of the most influential artists in the postmodern revival of figurative during the 1980s. In a series of notebooks from the early to mid-1980s, never before exhibited, Basquiat combined text and images reflecting his engagement with the countercultures of graffiti and hip-hop in New York City, as well as pop culture and world events. Filled with handwritten texts, poems, pictograms, and drawings, many of them iconic images that recur throughout his artwork—teepees, crowns, skeleton-like silhouettes, and grimacing masks—and these notebooks reveal much about the artist’s creative process and the importance of the written word in his aesthetic. With over 150 notebook pages and numerous drawings and paintings, this important book sheds new light on Basquiat’s career and his critical place in contemporary art history.

Stay tuned for a new book tomorrow!