Posing Beauty in African American Culture explores the ways in which African and African American beauty has been represented in historical and contemporary contexts through a diverse range of media including photography, video, fashion and advertising.
Throughout the history of Western art and image-making, beauty has been idealized and challenged, and the relationship between beauty and art has become increasingly complex within contemporary art and popular culture. Posing Beauty explores contemporary understandings of beauty by framing the notion of aesthetics, race, class and gender within art, popular culture and political contexts.
The first of three thematic sections, “Constructing a Pose,” considers the interplay between the historical and the contemporary, between self-representation and imposed representation, and the relationship between subject and photographer. The second theme, “Body & Image,” questions the ways in which our contemporary understanding of beauty has been constructed and framed through the body. The final theme, “Modeling Beauty & Beauty Contests,” invites us to reflect upon the ambiguities of beauty, its impact on mass culture and individuals, and how the display of beauty affects the ways in which we see and interpret the world and ourselves. Posing Beauty features approximately 120 works of art representing more than 45 artists and photographers including Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Anthony Barboza, Sheila Pree Bright, Renee Cox, Victor Diop, Leonard Freed, Charles “Teenie” Harris, Dave Heath, Lauren Kelley, John W. Mosley, Ken Ramsay, Jeffrey Scales, Stephen Shames, Mickalene Thomas, Carrie Mae Weems and Hank Willis Thomas, among others.
Posing Beauty in African American Culture is curated by Deborah Willis and organized by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions, Pasadena, California. The exhibition is curated for the Harn by Jade Powers, Curator of Contemporary Art.
This exhibition is made possible locally by the generous support of Dr. M.F. “Midge” Smith, Ken and Laura Berns, Visit Gainesville, Alachua County, David Etherington and Jeffery Dunn, Eric and Yvette Godet, HCA Florida North Florida Hospital, Wells Fargo Foundation, Charles and June Allen, and Congregation Beth Jacob, with additional support from the Sidney Knight Endowment.