"In spite of the need to reconcile the philosophical premise of his construct, Powell's inquisitive mind, brilliant intellect and lucidity allow him to travel over territorial boundaries laden with land mines and to emerge with minor bruises. His historical analysis is of the highest order. This analysis, probably disconcerting for some readers, is critical and supports admirably most of the evidence presented in his book."
-Murry N. DePillars, book review of Black Art & Culture in the 20th Century,The International Review of African American Art, 1997
Richard J. Powell is the John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art and Art History at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, where he has taught since 1989. In 2007 he was appointed Editor-in-Chief of The Art Bulletin [ http://www.collegeart.org/artbulletin/ ] for a three year term. He studied at Morehouse College and Howard University before earning his doctorate in art history at Yale University. Along with teaching courses in the arts of the African Diaspora, American art, and contemporary visual studies, he has written extensively on topics ranging from primitivism to postmodernism, including such titles as Homecoming: The Art and Life of William H. Johnson (1991), Jacob Lawrence (1992), and Black Art: A Cultural History (1997 & 2002). His latest book, Cutting a Figure: Fashioning Black Portraiture (2008), is about 19th, 20th, and 21st century portraits of peoples of African descent in paintings, photographs, graphic arts, and cinema.
Powell has helped organize several art exhibitions, most notably: The Blues Aesthetic: Black Culture and Modernism (1989); Rhapsodies in Black: Art of the Harlem Renaissance (1997); To Conserve A Legacy: American Art at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (1999); Beauford Delaney: The Color Yellow (2002); Circle Dance: The Art of John T. Scott (2005); Back to Black: Art, Cinema, & the Racial Imaginary (2005); and Conjuring Bearden (2006). These and other exhibitions curated by Powell have appeared in major museums and galleries both nationally and internationally, and include such institutions as the Studio Museum in Harlem, Whitney Museum of American Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, London's Whitechapel Art Gallery, and the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
Richard Powell is a past recipient of two Ford Foundation Fellowships, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, numerous Smithsonian Institution Fellowships and Grants, and a Fulbright Grant for Graduate Study Abroad, among other fellowships and grants. He has been a Fellow-in-Residence at the National Humanities Center, the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard University, as well as a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow in Museum Education at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and an Ednah Root Visiting Curator in American Art at the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, California.