Black History MonthFebruary 6, 2018
In honor of Black History Month, Rizzoli would like to pay tribute to the icons and movements that are the backbone of African American history, as well as those that represent the future. Below, we celebrate just a few of the artists and cultural figures we have had the honor to publish.
Style shaped by African-Americans and the African Diaspora is embedded in our popular culture, and Black style, always fertile and innovative, has become ubiquitous. Elements of the style, from hoodies to large hoop earrings to sneakers for every occasion, are staples in just about every wardrobe today. Icons of Black style and taste, past and present, such as Josephine Baker, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Michelle Obama, Russell Westbrook, and Pharrell Williams, inspire and influence the way we look and dress today.
LEFT: Actor Pam Grier shot to stardom in the early 1970s when she starred in such films as Foxy Brown, Coffy, and Sheba, Baby. Blaxploitation movies, as they are sometimes called, were virtual runways of extravagant Seventies style. RIGHT: A modern take on Bantu knots originating in the Bantu communities of southern Africa.
How to Slay: Inspiration from the Queens and Kings of Black Style
Redefining cool for a new generation, Pharrell Williams is a creative force. By playing off different disciplines—namely music, fashion, street art, and design—and using each as an element in the other, Pharrell has redefined the role of the contemporary recording artist, blazing a trail for other musicians and prominent cultural figures.
Pharrell: Places and Spaces I’ve Been
Known for his oversize paintings of contemporary African-Americans in heroic poses inspired by the great portrait painters of the past, Kehinde Wiley’s clever and ironic “reversals” have provided rich commentary on the nature of race and power in our society. His work began primarily from photographs he took of young men on the street in Harlem that he remixed with a fusion of historic painting styles, including elements of the French rococo. In the last decade, he has become one of the most important artists of the moment, with work as relevant and resonant to the hip-hop generation as it is to high-end collectors and major museums.
Beginning her ballet studies at the late age of thirteen, Misty Copeland was performing professionally in just over a year. Only 4 years later, she was invited to join American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company, becoming the company’s second ever African American female Soloist. When later promoted to principal dancer, she became the first African-American woman in this role in the company’s 75-year history. Copeland, who was often told her strongly-defined muscles did not fit the “ideal” ballerina body, is breaking down ballet’s racial and physical barriers, raising awareness for diversity in dance and for a more positive self-image.
Among the most celebrated architects of his generation, Paul Revere Williams was the first African-American member of the American Institute of Architects. Over a career spanning six decades, he came to define what gracious living looked like for the Hollywood elite by mastering an array of architectural styles to create his sophisticated yet understated showplaces. With celebrity clients such as Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Tyrone Power, and Barbara Stanwyck, Williams left his mark in the city’s most glamorous and exclusive enclaves—Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Bel Air, and the Hollywood Hills.
Paul R. Williams: Classic Hollywood Style
Princess Pamela ruled a small realm, but her powers ranged far and wide. Her speakeasy-style restaurant in Manhattan was for three decades a hip salon, with regulars from Andy Warhol to Diana Ross. Her iconic Southern dishes influenced chefs nationwide, and her cookbook—one of the earliest books to coin soul food—became a bible for a generation who yearned for the home cooking left behind in the Great Migration. “If you lived in New York on big dreams and no money, Princess Pamela’s was where you wanted to eat. Quirky and clubby (the Princess didn’t let everybody in), her Little Kitchen served cheap cuts—tripe, chitlins’, pig tails—and made them taste like food for angels. You felt lucky to be there.” —Ruth Reichl, author of My Kitchen Year
Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Cookbook: A Mouth-Watering Treasury of Afro-American Recipes
The Black Panther Party for Self Defense, formed in the aftermath of the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965, sounded a defiant cry for an end to the institutionalized subjugation of African Americans. The Black Panther newspaper was founded to articulate the party’s message, and artist Emory Douglas became the paper’s art director and later the party’s minister of culture. Douglas’s artistic talents and experience proved a powerful combination: his striking collages of photographs and his own drawings combined to create some of the era’s most iconic images.
Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas
In the late 1960s, New York was the epicenter of creative vitality and artistic expression, when, as Phyllis Magidson writes in the introduction of Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced, “Clothing became a masquerade, Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain a costume party, weekends a perpetual Halloween.” This was the New York City that Stephen Burrows embraced as his own. It would inspire him to create clothes that focused on a new kind of femininity—featuring light and fluid fabrics and an instinctive sense of color inspired by the music and dance culture of the ’70s and ’80s—and would help revolutionize American Fashion, both in the US and abroad.
Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced
With no formal training, Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988) succeeded in developing a new and expressive style that moved him from gritty, street-smart graffiti artist to art gallery star in only a few short years. His combined text and images reflect his engagement with graffiti and hip-hop culture in 1980s New York City, as well as his own cultural heritage. A friend of Keith Haring and Andy Warhol, and always controversial, Basquiat is now established as a major contemporary painter whose unique work continues to enthrall.
Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks
Duke Ellington was the undisputed father of the American songbook. A prolific writer and consummate performer, Ellington had an enormous impact on the popular music of the late 20th century. With a career that spanned five decades, he is considered one of the defining composers of the Jazz Age. From his part in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s to his pioneering explosion of form and genre in the 1940s and beyond, this originator of big-band jazz was rightfully known as the “prince of the piano.”
Duke Ellington: An American Composer and Icon