Poynor's research in the Yoruba kingdom of Owo has resulted in numerous publications in scholarly journals. Because of his interest in exhibiting and interpreting the arts of Africa, Poynor has involved himself in curating and advising on numerous exhibitions of African art at the University of Florida and other institutions. Most recently Poynor curated (with Susan Cooksey and Hein Vanhee) a major exhibition, Kongo across the Waters, which was a collaboration between the Harn Museum of Art and the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium. The exhibition had a six month run at the Harn before moving to other venues: the Jimmy Carter Presidential Museum in Atlanta, the Princeton University Art Museum, and the New Orleans Museum of Art.
Poynor's commitment to teaching led to writing the textbook A History of Art in Africa, with Monica Blackmun Visona and Herbert M. Cole, published by Harry N. Abrams (2001). A History of Art in Africa was one of sixty books named to Art Journal's coveted "Best Books of 2000 List" and won Honorable Mention in the Arnold Rubin Book Competition. It has been adopted as a text by over 160 universities in the United States. A revised edition was published for 2008 by Pearson. Recent books include Kongo across the Waters, co-edited with Cooksey and Vanhee, 2013, and Africa in Florida: 500 Years of African Presence in the Sunshine State, co-edited with Amanda Carlson (University of Hartford). He anticipates working next with Cynthia Becker (Boston University) and Freddi Williams Evans (New Orleans) on a book project that addresses Africa in Louisiana.
Poynor has served on the Board of Directors for ACASA, a scholarly association comprised of individuals from four continents representing a wide variety of fields - among these Art History, Anthropology, Archaeology, Museum Studies, Fine Arts, Ethnomusicology and Sociology - with a longstanding interest in the arts of Africa and the Diaspora. ACASA is affiliated with both the African Studies Association and College Art Association. Poynor was president of ACASA from 2002 to 2004.
Poynor grew up in Louisiana, earned a B.A. degree from Southeastern Louisiana University and a B.F.A. degree from the San Francisco Art Institute in studio art before turning to the study of art in the context of culture. Having earned the M.A. and the Ph.D. degrees in art history at Indiana University, he has researched the arts of Africa for the past 40 years. He carried out initial fieldwork in Nigeria as a Fulbright Hays Fellow and did subsequent work in Sierra Leone. His work presently focuses on the art of the African Diaspora, especially as it relates to manifestations of Yoruba culture in the American south.