A group exhibition of contemporary icons and today’s emerging prodigies in Black American Art, curated by Tim Francis, is on view until Sept. 18, at Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia Street.
An opening reception was held in early August.
Francis, who has served on the boards of the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans, and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, makes his curatorial debut with Black Beauty.
An important patron of the arts both locally and nationally, Francis is dedicated to enriching the New Orleans art community, particularly as it relates to racial consciousness and curates Black Beauty with a powerful vision and aesthetic sensibility focused on highlighting the brilliance of contemporary Black artists.
Black Beauty is comprised of Black artists whose work shares “a relationship to the African American condition that celebrates humanity in all of its diversity, eccentricities, and social and moral quandaries.”
Black Beauty features work by Romare Bearden, David Driskell, Rashaad Newsome, Brandan “B-Mike” Odums, Shoshanna Weinberger, Fahamu Pecou, Brent McKeever, Lezley Saar, and Frederick J. Brown. A catalog accompanies the exhibition and features a critical essay by noted art historian Richard J. Powell.
Romare Bearden, David Driskell, and Frederick Brown represent an iconic class of Black artists that broke down barriers and paved the way for a new generation of artists.
Lezley Saar and Shoshanna Weinberger explore the ambiguities of biracial identity. The author Nella Larson serves as a source of inspiration for both artists, unpacking biracial female identity in her acclaimed book Passing. Both artists use collage as a powerful force in their work. Weinberger’s use of collage stems from her desire to further render her figures as specimens, unnatural in their assemblage, while Saar’s collage stems from her female artistic lineage, learning to make art organically through found objects and helping her find her artistic voice.
Brent McKeever and Rashaad Newsome address the marginalization and erasure of Black Queer men through their work. McKeever’s Untitled portrait of a young transgender person is a reflection of the artist’s closeted childhood where he felt unable to express himself as a queer person of color. The photograph also serves as a commentary on the lack of acceptance of LGBTQ persons within the Black community. Newsome also explores this lack of acceptance through his LGBTQ ballroom-inspired It Do Take Nerve 1 & 2.
Brandan “B-Mike” Odums and Fahamu Pecou reinvigorate the art of portraiture, empowering a community and celebrating Black identity while promoting a social justice agenda.. Odums transforms the back gallery space into an extension of his studio. He tagged the walls with spray paint and hang a mural-sized unstretched canvas portrait. The floor is adorned with rugs, resource material, his favorite records, paintbrushes and spray paint cans while tabletops display books by Black artists and authors. Pecou’s portraits reframe contemporary Black culture and upend expected ethnographic representations. Dressed in contemporary street clothes, the attractive figures (many of the men are self-portraits) interact with objects that reference history, stereotypes, and recent events, illustrating the complexity of Black identity.