Gift ideas -- arts, literature, books for children; Folk tradition as 'high' art; Black Folk Art in America 1930-1980, by Jane Livingston and John Beardsley with Regenia Perry. Jackson, Miss.: The University Press of Mississippi/Corcoran Gallery of Art/Center for the Study of Southern Culture. 186 pp. $20. (paperback).

This book raises an awkward question: What is the difference between the work of a trained artist and that of a folk artist? The authors do an immense service in bringing the work of unknown black artists to public attention. However, they say that what these artists produce is not of the same order as that which usually appears in the gallery where the work is now being shown.

The paradox is one we shall have to live with as long as we compartmentalize our concept of art. However, it does seem as if the work reproduced in this book can well stand comparison with many other examples that command the attention of the art world. For, after all, it illustrates the kind of inspiration that has sent many famous artists into new worlds of expression. Folk art's roots in Africa have nourished both black and white artists, though in vastly different ways.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.