SPELMAN MUSEUM OF FINE ART- POSING BEAUTY IN AFRICAN-AMERICAN CULTURE
SEPTEMBER 5-DECEMBER 7
SPELMAN COLLEGE MUSEUM OF FINE ART
The Spelman College Museum of Fine Art is the first institution in the Southeast to present the nationally touring exhibition, “Posing Beauty in African American Culture.” Featuring more than 75 photographs by leading, emerging, and amateur photographers, “Posing Beauty” explores ways contemporary understanding of beauty has been informed by the works of photographers and artists dating from 1890 to the present. The exhibition will be on view Sept. 5 through Dec. 7, 2013. The exhibition is curated by Deborah Willis, Ph.D., one of the nation’s leading historians of African-American photography.
The works within “Posing Beauty” delve into topics including fashion, beauty pageants, celebrity figures, and family portraits, and prompt discussions about the contested ways African-American beauty has been represented in historical and contemporary contexts.
Within the exhibition, beauty is imagined and realized by both the subject and the photographer, and framed in novel ways — urban spaces, private studios, and within the imaginary. The aim is to encourage the viewer to think more critically about the notion of beauty and the consequences of the decisions made about beauty. This rare exhibition featuring 12 decades of photographs, challenges widespread and historic notions of Black beauty.
Posing Beauty in African American Culture explores the contested ways in which African and African American beauty have been represented in historical and contemporary contexts through a diverse range of media including photography, film, video, fashion, advertising, and other forms of popular culture such as music and the Internet. Throughout the Western history of art and image-making, the relationship between beauty and art has become increasingly complex within contemporary art and popular culture.
The images in this exhibition challenge idealized forms of beauty in art by examining their portrayal and exploring a variety of attitudes about race, class, gender, popular culture and politics as seen through the aesthetics of representation. 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 and Image,” questions the ways in which our contemporary understanding of beauty has been constructed and framed through the body. The last section, “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 explores contemporary understandings of beauty by framing the notion of aesthetics, race, class, and gender within art, popular culture, and political contexts. This exhibit features approximately 84 works drawn from public and private collections and will be accompanied by a book published by W.W. Norton. Artists in the exhibit include, among others, Carrie Mae Weems, Charles “Teenie” Harris, Eve Arnold, Gary Winogrand, Sheila Pree Bright, Leonard Freed, Renee Cox, Anthony Barboza, Bruce Davidson, Mickalene Thomas, and Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe.