Blackface: A Reclamation of Beauty, Power, and Narrative
Featured artists: Tawny Chatmon, Alfred Conteh, Jerrell Gibbs, Jas Knight, Arvie Smith, and Felandus Thames
April 20 – June 15, 2019
Saturday, April 20th – 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Artist’s Talk: TBD
Galerie Myrtis and The Agora Culture present Blackface: A Reclamation of Beauty, Power, and Narrative.
In asserting the beauty of the black body, affirming its power— and societal and historical place, curators Myrtis Bedolla and Jessica Stafford Davis offer a counter narrative to the racist archetypes that evolved from 18th century minstrelsy, and its negative stereotyping of African Americans that prevails today.
The exhibition explores contemporary notions of black identity through photography by Tawny Chatmon, and painters Alfred Conteh, Jerrell Gibbs, and Jas Knight; and an investigation of blackface from a historic perspective presented in paintings by Arvie Smith and multidisciplinary works by Felandus Thames. The addition of a compiling video by filmmaker Karina Griffith captured in Berlin, Germany evokes the maligning of blackness through an international lens.
In addressing the insidious nature of minstrelsy and the appropriation of black culture —to deploy and rationalize the subjugation of African Americans for financial gain, Frederick Douglass described blackface performers as:
“…the filthy scum of white society, who have stolen from us a complexion, denied them by nature, in which to make money, and pander to the corrupt taste of their white fellow citizens.” [i]
[i] Lott, Eric (1993). Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. New York: Oxford University Press.