Philosophy Pt. 3

Previously discussed, African Americans, along with many other minority groups, face oppression in a cyclical manner. Also, from Zeno’s paradox, we understand that progress being obtained is an illusion; confined by societal expectations. However, contextual evidence from the Allegory of the Cave, written by Plato, shows readers the complexity of our restraints on ourselves by idolizing material wealth as symbols of progress. With all of these philosophical ideas, how does this correlate to art; more specifically, Steve Prince? Many pieces of work by Mr. Prince show the recognition of the destitution African American’s face. In addition, he follows up these works with pieces highlighting our efforts in overcoming these hardships. He leaves us with hope for a break in this cycle.

One example is through his work titled “Urban Mix-tape”. As we scan the artwork from left to right we see a progression in art form; simplistic cubism to complex shadings of realistic portraits. This also highlights the evolution of African American culture through time, especially with the jazz figures preceding the disk jockey. As our focus shifts to the right we see a series of rings emerging from the DJ’s fingertips. These rings are symbolic to cyclic nature of the oppression black people have encountered throughout history. The alternation of the white and black rings could have dual meanings. The first metaphor correlates the colors to good and bad. This is due to society’s notion that light colors portray enlightenment, or virtue, and that darker colors have a negative connotation. For example, the overcoming of slavery was an advancement but was then followed up with the injustice of Jim Crow laws. Another possible meaning is that the shades are direct symbols of skin color; showing the conflicts between the two races periodically.

Urban Mix Tape.2.jpg

However, Steve Prince uses this work piece to provide hope for a change in this pattern of oppression. Doves are often symbols for love, peace, and purity. As we see them on the far right this could mean they are harbingers of a better future. Also, as the drawing progresses from left to right the figures portray lighter shades. This could mean that African Americans are heading “into the light” of a better future. Also noticeable is the stark difference in shading and contrast seen in the left figures. This changes as the drawing progresses to the right with more blending. This may metaphorically show how a once predominant white nation is accepting the union of African Americans into society. Mr. Prince uses this to encourage a blending of races into harmony.

Through the acknowledgement of the oppression minorities in American have faced, productive conversations and actions can be made for the betterment of our future. Art is a diverse form that expresses and recognizes the hardships people face, and is often used to begin these discussions. We must facilitate the proper conversations in order to break the cycle of destitution many citizens in society are under. We can’t allow ourselves to become stagnant, or the pattern will continue. 

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