John L Warfield Center

Cherise Smith

Associate ProfessorPh.D., Stanford University

Associate Professor in Art History, Associate Professor in African and African Diaspora Studies
Cherise Smith



African American and African Diaspora art, the history of photography, contemporary art, and the politics of identity


Associate Professor Cherise Smith joined the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas at Austin in 2005. She offers courses in and has published articles on African American and African Diaspora art, the history of photography, and contemporary art. Her manuscript, Enacting Others: Politics of Identity in Eleanor Antin, Nikki S. Lee, Adrian Piper, and Anna Deavere Smith, was published by Duke University Press in 2011. It examines how identity is negotiated in performance art by reading closely a performance work by each artist in which she takes-on the characteristics and manners of a racial, ethnic, and gender “other”. She has worked in the curatorial departments of several museums and curated a number of exhibitions. Cherise Smith is the director for the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies.


AFR 387D • Performing Race Am Art/Cul

29610 • Spring 2016
Meets T 9:00AM-12:00PM GWB 1.138
(also listed as AMS 391, ARH 393E)

The phenomenon of “passing”—in which a person consciously represents her/himself as something he or she is not—is the topic of this graduate seminar.  Different types of “passing” include the crossing of class boundaries, ethnic impersonation, and minstrelsy.  The emphasis of this course will be on representations of racial performance in visual art (Adrian Piper, Eleanor Antin, Anna Deveare Smith, Cindy Sherman), literature (Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson, Nella Larsen’s Passing, Norman Mailer’s The White Negro), and films (Imitation of LifeMy Fair LadyBlade Runner).  Through texts from the 19th through 21st centuries, we will consider the various and shifting reasons why individuals have shed their own identities and donned new ones, and why the practice continues today. 

AFR 372E • Black Art, Brown Art

30655 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM ART 1.120
(also listed as ARH 373E, MAS 374)

Black Art/Brown Art will focus on visual art made by contemporary African American, Mexican American and Latino artists.  Students will consider artists' relationships to issues of difference, including but not limited to gender, 'identity politics' and 'post-identity.' In addition, students will think about whether the artists engage in transnational dialogues with the cultures of their ancestors.  Attention will be paid to exhibitions, such as 'Phantom Sightings' and 'Freestyle', that seek to (re)define the parameters of contemporary 'ethnic' art.  We will study Rashid Johnson, Juan Capistran, Michael Ray Charles, Kara Walker, Pepon Osorio, Wanda Raimundi Ortiz, and Enrique Chagoya among other artists.


Texts (needs to be specific texts, not “course packet” or “TBA)”:

Sharon Patton, African American Art, NY:  Oxford, 1998


AFR 372E • Twentieth-Century Afr Amer Art

30328 • Spring 2013
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM GAR 1.126
(also listed as ARH 373E)

This course surveys art made by African American artists in the 20th century.  We will study painting, photography, and sculpture made in representational and abstract styles.  We will explore whether African American art is uniquely American and consider whether some “Africanisms” are retained.  We will examine the relationship between African American art and jazz during the Harlem Renaissance (1920s-1930s), African American art and protest during the Civil Rights era (1950s-1960s), and African American art and the politics of identity (1980s-1990s).  The course text will be Sharon Patton’s African-American Art; other texts will be available on reserve and in the course reader.

AFR 387D • Historicizing Polit Of Ident

30363 • Fall 2011
Meets M 9:00AM-12:00PM ART 3.432
(also listed as ARH 387)

(Cross listed as ARH 387)

Course Description: This course historicizes the politics of identity in American art by tracking its trajectory over the thirty-year period from 1970 to 2000.  Students will compare discourses that theorize identities as “real,” “authentic,” fixed, stable, and unchanging, to those that understand identities to be inauthentic, fluid, transitory, and ever-changing constructions.  Texts that fall under the rubrics of Feminism, Black Cultural Studies, Chicana/o and Mexican American Cultural Studies, Multiculturalism, and Queer Studies among others will be read to discern similarities and divergences.  Key events, ranging from the NEA controversy (1989) to The Decade Show (1991), the Los Angeles uprisings (1992) to the Whitney Biennial Exhibition of 1993, will also be studied.  Artists to be covered may include Robert Mapplethorpe, Adrian Piper, Eleanor Antin, Nikki S. Lee, Glenn Ligon, Kara Walker, Cindy Sherman, Chris Burden, Vito Acconci, James Luna, Guillermo Gomez-Peña, and Coco Fusco among others.

AFR 374F • 20th-Cen African American Art

35539 • Spring 2010
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM ART 1.120
(also listed as ARH 366N)

(Cross listed as ARH 366 N)

Course Description This course will survey visual art produced by people of African descent in the United States.  The emphasis will be on art made during the 20th century, but older and more recent art will also be studied.  Students will be introduced to a wide range of artistic production, including decorative arts, mixed media, painting, performance, photography, prints, textiles, sculpture, and video.  Through our readings and discussions, we will create a socio-historical framework for the interpretation and analysis of works of art.  We will examine changes in modes of expression, formal concerns, pictorial themes and the impact of the Black Arts Movement, Feminism, and Afrocentrism on art.  The course challenges students to examine the relationship of the work of black artists to art from West and Central Africa and the visual traditions of European and Euro-American artists.  Our underlying goal is to gain an understanding of the variety of art that is categorized under the heading “African American” and to consider how “race” is constructed through visual art.

AFR 374F • 20th-Cen African American Art

35310 • Spring 2007
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM DFA 2.204

Please check back for updates.

AFR 374F • 20th-Cen African American Art

34315 • Spring 2006
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM DFA 2.204

Please check back for updates.


“Looking Relations in a Charnay Photograph.” Fotophile, 46 (February, 2004), 16- 20.