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Black History Month: Gallery Exhibition Tour with Juana Williams

Translating Valence: redefining black male identity; A Beautiful Struggle: Black Feminist Futurism

February 27, 2020 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Location: UICA
Figure 1: Devan Shimoyama, Crowned, Mixed Media on Canvas, 2017

Figure 1: Devan Shimoyama, Crowned, Mixed Media on Canvas, 2017

Celebrating Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, KCAD has collaborated with the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) to offer an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the galleries led by Juana Williams, UICA's Exhibition's curator. The current exhibitions, Translating Valence: redefining black male identity and A Beautiful Struggle: Black Feminist Futurism will be the focus of the tour.

February 27 10am – 12pm
This opportunity has limited capacity, to sign up, visit the front desk of the Student Services/ARC Office.

All KCAD students have a free membership to the UICA.

Translating Valence: redefining black male identity
Translating Valence propagates ideas regarding black masculinity that lie in conjunction with, and opposition to, widely held historical and stereotypical beliefs. The title references the psychological theory of emotional valence, which generally refers to values expressed in reference to stimuli, ranging from attractive to aversive. While commonly not discussed regarding individuals, it can be argued that stereotypes about black males create negative valence. Although valence is said to be intrinsic, the idea of questioning the relevance and objective nature of valence is at play in this exhibition. The black male experience reflects shared trauma, but also shared resilience. Historically, the black male has been demonized and criticized with stereotypes primarily focused on physicality. Contemporary culture continues to grapple with the idea of the black male body being perceived as a weapon in and of itself, striking fear in many upon sight. Black male artists have sought to deconstruct imagery of the black male body in order to shift the gaze from a fetishizing white viewpoint to a collective vulnerability, strategically obscuring and disclosing literal aspects of the body. This exhibition examines what falls into the folds and what spills out of the creases, deconstructing the body to reveal and conceal through manipulation of imagery. It includes narratives told and retold, with twists and turns, and redefinitions. Each artist creates new figures from the old as material ebbs and flows through distorted subconscious memories, and new experiences and understandings.

The exhibition features the work of black male artists who use figurative abstraction to not only manipulate visual aspects of black masculinity but also question and deconstruct ideas and ideologies around the subject. While the work often deals with the personal experiences of each artist, it also raises questions for the viewer to consider—and perhaps begin to dismantle—long-held beliefs and forced definitions of black masculinity. Each artist in this exhibition takes a position of power by opting to discuss identity through what information is revealed, and thus made vulnerable, and what is kept veiled. The body of the black male is on display to act as a counterpoint between the different narratives, but the abstraction of the figure is what leads to ideas of secrecy and protection. While the exhibition focuses explicitly on black masculinity, it also brings about existential questions of humanity regarding human connection and relational understanding.
Participating Artists: Stephen Arboite, Scott Campbell, Nate Lewis, Patrick Quarm, Devan Shimoyama, Joshua Solas

A Beautiful Struggle: Black Feminist Futurism
A Beautiful Struggle: Black Feminist Futurism is an interdisciplinary contemporary art exhibition that explores the integration of Black feminist and Afrofuturist ideas.

Afrofuturism is a creative and cultural genre that examines perspectives of the African diaspora based in a communal reimagining of the past - as well as envisioned futures - while considering themes of identity, escapism, magical realism, and technology. Yet, Black feminism specifically focuses on the perspectives of those who are both Black and female. The relevancy of exploring visual representations of Afrofuturism from a Black feminist perspective rests in the understanding of the necessity to lay aside the historically exclusive nature of both Black nationalism and feminism; instead, promoting the intersectionality of Black womanhood.

Rather than focusing on an imagined existence as a form of escapism from oppression, marginalization, and invisibility, this exhibition dares to expound upon unique characteristics of Black womanhood and ways in which these characteristics can be emphasized. By highlighting Black women’s experiences, without blatant representations of oppression, Black women’s self-defined identities are centered, rather than explored in a responsive way.

Afrofuturism also allows for the constant dialogue of past, present, and future, and the dynamic nature of constantly changing creations. Therefore, this exhibition offers examinations of Black feminist empowerment without constraints of particular time periods. All aspects of time are considered simultaneously, reimagined through Black feminist lenses, and used as tools of empowerment. Through this exhibition, artists negotiate re-imagined pasts, contemporary realities, and envisioned futures by corresponding to the necessity of elevating voices of the African diaspora community, with particular focus solely on the voices which have been most suppressed, those of Black women.
Participating Artists: Firelei Báez, Elizabeth Catlett, Tawny Chatmon, D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem, Krista Franklin, Ja’Tovia Gary, Jessi Jumanji, Brianna McCarthy, Helina Metaferia, Aïda Muluneh, Wangechi Mutu, Dawn Okoro, Bre’Ann White, Saya Woolfalk, Alisha Wormsley

Exhibition and artist details available at https://www.uica.org/exhibitions-and-events

Individuals with disabilities who require special accommodations to participate should contact the KCAD Activities and Resource Center at 616.451.2787 x1156 at least 72 hours in advance.