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Susan Bee

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The Slap (2012), Gun Crazy (2011), and Cover Up (2010) are from a series of paintings that are based on stills from films, mostly noirs. This series of small oil paintings dramatize the power relationships between the white male and female characters through the lens of those dark, violent films of the 1940s and 1950s. Black and white film stills are the pictorial basis of these oil paintings. The keyed-up colors, energetic patterns and painterly abstractions that also populate these pieces, make them psychologically complex. These works are filled with tension as well as tenderness. I remain intrigued by the dangerous women and the desolate men in the post World War II film noirs. These works bring into focus the power of the individual faces and bodies and their relationship to the painted ground and also their relation to each other. I emphasize the dynamic between the figures. The focus of the paintings is on these relationships as well as the psychological space and violent emotions that are carved out among the people that I’m portraying. The paintings confront, without resolving or sublimating, gender roles and power relationships.

Titus Kaphar

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Mark Peterson

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Mark Peterson’s Charlottesville series capture the baleful scene, illuminating the protesters’ faces and eyes, some of which are joyful in their hate. Clio Change – The New Republic

Nate Lewis

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Social Patterns

In this series, I took stills of videos posted on social media of white violence against black bodies. I create emotion through texture and patterns in the figures and sometimes the environments. By changing the images to black and white I aim to connect these current images and patterns of white violence to the past, to highlight how this violence has been a continuing fabric within the United States. In using a scalpel to carve into these stills I seek to deconstruct and investigate them, rendering some of the images altered to the point of being unrecognizable. I invite the viewer to take a closer look, to be drawn in, to reassemble the image and contemplate images that are often fleeting moments.

Nari Ward

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Nari Ward (b. 1963, St. Andrew, Jamaica; lives and works in New York) is known for his sculptural installations composed of discarded material found and collected in his neighborhood. He has repurposed objects such as baby strollers, shopping carts, bottles, doors, television sets, cash registers and shoelaces, among other materials. Ward re-contextualizes these found objects in thought-provoking juxtapositions that create complex, metaphorical meanings to confront social and political issues surrounding race, poverty, and consumer culture. He intentionally leaves the meaning of his work open, allowing the viewer to provide his or her own interpretation.

Carla Liesching

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Flesh Tones (work in progress):

Teju Cole’s essay, A True Picture of Black Skin[i], raises questions about visual media’s inherent technical biases, referencing photographic film emulsion’s calibration for light skin, or Kodak’s color standardizing ‘Shirley Card’ circa 1950, displaying a model whose whiteness was historically marked on the card as ‘normal.’ While a so-called ‘Multicultural Shirley’ was introduced in the mid 1990’s, a quick Google image search reveals that a pale peachy pink remains dominant in what is considered a ‘normal flesh tone.’

Throughout photographic history, portraits have played a role in fortifying white power and imperial ideologies. Colonial imagery portrayed African people as analogous to fauna and flora[ii], a spectacle of primitivism still observed in present-day spaces—the American Museum of Natural History, to name one example. Victorian anthropologists John Lamprey, Thomas Huxley and Francis Galton (infamous eugenicist and cousin of Charles Darwin), employed the archetypical pseudo-sciences of physiognomy, phrenology, anthropometry and facial compositing to classify humans into types—claiming to connect physical traits with moral character. They surveyed ‘the various races of the world,’ placing Africans as inferior zoological specimens on an evolutionary scale. They also likened African facial structures to that of the ‘lowest European criminals’, going so far as to name them ‘felon faces’.

That the civil rights Slogan “I am a Man” is resonant now in the Black Lives Matter movement, indicates a continued narrative in which the non-white body is ‘less normal, less civilized, less human, closer to the animal-world and dangerous.’ And as Ta-Nehisi Coates reminds us: “Our phrasing must not obscure that racism is a visceral experience… that lands with great violence upon the body.”[iii]

Contemporary Artist, Heather Dewey-Hagborg explores a new forensic technology, DNA Phenotyping, which renders facial appearance from genetic samples. Hagborg argues that the pioneering law-enforcement tool relies heavily on algorithmically derived statistical photographic composites which are themselves drawn from a racially skewed database. Hagborg asserts, “We tend to look at technical systems as neutral black boxes, but if you open them up and look at the component parts, you find that they reflect the assumptions and motivations of their designers.[iv]” Similarly, the ‘dark chamber’ of the camera is not neutral—its nature depends upon the powers which set it to work.

Flesh Tones examines the ways in which representation and oppression go hand-in-hand, focusing on race as a prevailing colonial tool and the unyielding normalization of white superiority within Western visual culture. Through this project I seek a language to explore these issues, addressing the questions: how are images implicit in producing restrictive, divisive and singular identities and narratives? How may we subvert them? What are their consequences?

[i] Teju Cole, A True Picture of Black Skin, New York Times, Feb 18, 2015

[ii] James R. Ryan, Picturing Empire: Photography and the Visualization of the British Empire1997

[iv] Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Spiegel & Grau, New York, 2015

[iv] Heather Dewey Hagborg, Sci Fi Drama with a Strong Black Lead, The New Inquiry, June 27, 2015

Hank Willis Thomas

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Hew Locke

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Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa

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“Each generation sloughs that knowledge of history which interferes with its own sense of a fresh start.”

—Leo Steinberg, “Other Criteria” (1972)

 

Suzanne Broughel

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In my work, I explore the construct of race in the United States.  Sifting through history, popular culture and autobiography, I look at our present moment’s disconnect between post-racial fantasies and unequal reality. I am interested in the personal as political, so I look at my own body and I look at skin color.  Tie dye, mandalas, African and Native American fabric patterns – styles that reference “hippie culture”, “New Age” practices, and cultural appropriation are where form and content meld for me.

My materials are everyday household objects such as bed sheets, bandaids, and self-tanning lotions. Though mass produced commodities, these are items we bring into our homes, put on our skin, sleep on.  It is from this personal, intimate voice that the strongest dialogue on race begins, while the connection to global capitalism reminds us that we are part of a bigger picture that is structural.