Synopses & Reviews
In this generously illustrated book, scholar and teacher Robert Farris Thompson gives us the definitive account of cool--not cool the adjective--cool the aesthetic; the cool fundamental to the culture of the Black Atlantic and expressed in ideals of balance and control; the cool of "creative matters, full of motion and brilliance"; the cool of individual and social responsibility. Cool has ancient roots in Nigeria, is still evident in "shared traits" of West African dance, and came to the Americas with slaves who wove it into a rich and dynamic creole civilization. No one is better able to uncover and recount this extraordinary story of change and survival than Thompson, a polymath with a gift for insights into the interconnectedness of cultures. He shows us the cool's reinvention in terminologies galore; clothing, gesture, and body language; sports, especially basketball; music and dance; religious practices; and art in various guises, yardshows and quilts, paintings and gallery installations. Cool is "the mask of mind itself," Thompson concludes, the means for attaining the calm and balance of transcendence when facing difficulty, whether playing bebop and/or confronting racist brutality.
This book brings together all Thompson's writings on the cool, some hitherto unpublished, many in out-of-print and hard-to-find publications.Together they form an incomparable record of encounters and recognitions that began when the U.S. was still segregated and unwilling to acknowledge the existence, let alone the powers, of Black Atlantic culture. Thompson has played a leading role in gaining recognition for the Black Atlantic and making African American experiences into a subject of study at schools and universities. Aesthetic of the Cool is one of his monumental achievements.
Yale professor Robert Farris Thompson is a living legend. He started writing about the African heritage in the art and music of the Americas when no one recognized the continuities, when African-American studies did not exist and the Civil Rights Movement still met with violent opposition. This book presents the best of the essays on Afro- Atlantic art and music that Thompson wrote from 1963 to 2006. Edited for this publication, they offer a riveting guide to Afro-Atlantic culture, from the tango to James Hampton's glittering Throne of the Third Heaven. One significant piece on David Hammons, a leading figure in contemporary art, appears here for the first time. Among a staggering array of topics, other essays consider bus painting in Haiti; Jean-Michel Basquiat's love of jazz; hip-hop; Cuban Kongo altars and the art of Jos???????? Bedia; Betye Saar and vodun; Ren????????e Stout, healing, and the nkisi-charm; Keith Haring, the dancer; American yard art and bottle trees; Umbanda altars; and the ethos transmitted in the aesthetic of the cool. Many of the color illustrations reproduce Thompson's photographs of dance, altars, and lost masterpieces of yard art.
In this generously illustrated book, scholar and teacher Robert Farris Thompson gives us the definitive account of cool--not cool the adjective--cool the aesthetic; the cool fundamental to the culture of the Black Atlantic and expressed in ideals of balance and control; the cool of "creative matters, full of motion and brilliance"; the cool of individual and social responsibility.