ITS TENDOR is political, its spirit is communal, its motifs are African. It is both new and traditional. It might be called "black art."

It is often shown in Washington at Howard University's College of Fine Arts. Artists of the "Howard School" tend to celebrate the African and reject the European. They see their art as springing from the modern black experience. When asked about their roots, many of them cite a group formed in Chicago in the last years of the '60s. It was first called Cobra, the "Coalition of Black Revolutionary Artists," and later Africobra, the "African Commune of Black Relevant Artists." A number of those artists, Jeff Donaldson among them, came to work in Washington a decade ago.

What exactly is black art? How should it be judged? What political beliefs are held by its practitioners? How well is it supported by the black community? Is it viewed with suspicion by artists who, though black, work in other modes? And what responses does it draw from audiences and art dealerrs who happen to be white?

Difference and sometimes controversial answers to these and other questions were provided recently by three of Washingtonhs black artists, all of whom now teach at local universities. Following are excerpts from those three conversations.

Ed Love, a sculptor whose preferred material is cut and welded steel, now teaches art at Howard. Keith Morrison, Chicago-trained, Jamaica-born, is a painter and art critic who is now on the faculty of the University of Maryland. Yvonne Carter, an abstract painter trained at Howard, is now on sabbatical from her position at the Univeristy of the District of Columbia where she has taught art for the past 10 years.