Fired Up! Ready to Go! Finding Beauty, Demanding Equity; An African American Life in Art

Peggy Cooper Cafritz. Rizzoli, $75 (288p) ISBN 978-0-8478-6058-6
Cafritz, a Washington, D.C.–based activist and philanthropist and cofounder of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, spent decades collecting and curating one of the largest private collections of African-American and African art in the United States, all of which was destroyed in a fire in 2009. Thankfully, her impressive collection lives on in this stupendous book, which compiles photographs of over 200 of works (including some acquired after the fire) along with fond commentary from Cafritz. The collection encompasses all types of media and style, including sculpture, installation, landscape paintings, and historical ephemera, such as Theaster Gates’s Civil Rights Throw Rug, which is made up of firehoses used in Birmingham. The book also includes the photography of Carrie Mae Weems, an ink and acrylic collage by Wangechi Mutu, a tapestry by Kara Walker, and paintings by Kerry James Marshall. Cafritz is more enthusiastic than sorrowful in her commentary. She writes that just the thought of Mickalene Thomas’s painting Rumor Has It, which featured a topless woman in retro sunglasses sitting with her cat, still moves her. Writing of the wider contemporary art world, Cafritz points out the glaring omission of African and African-American art from many galleries, which makes her support of it all the more crucial. Cafritz’s dedication to and appreciation of black artists is evident throughout this magnificent book. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 03/05/2018
Release date: 02/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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