Sunday, November 2, 2008

Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art

Black Male is the catalogue of a major exhibition held at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York in 1994-95, chronicling the changing perceptions of African American masculinity as seen in the visual arts. Currently the Executive Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem, Thelma Golden sparked national controversy in 1994 and 1995 with an exhibition she curated herself, by the same title. The exhibition included works by 29 artists from the 1970s, '80s and '90, chosen by Golden to illustrate current conceptions of black masculinity. Spread across the second and third floors of the Whitney, Black Male chronicled the changing perceptions of African-American masculinity. Above Photo: ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE. Thomas in Circle, 1987, 24 x 20, B/W Print. Signed and numbered front and reverse, 6/10

Exhibiting artists were black men, such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gary Simmons, Glenn Ligon, Barkley L Hendricks and Lyle Ashton Harris; black women, such as Adrian Piper, Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems, Pat Ward Williams and Renee Cox; and a few Asian, Hispanic, and white artists like Andres Serrano, Dawn DeDeaux, Leon Golub, Jeff Koons and Robert Mapplethorpe to provide a multitude of perspectives. Black Male also incorporated film, video, and media.

The catalogue/book, Black Male: Representations Of Masculinity In Contemporary American Art, was published to accompany the Whitney’s exhibition. It comprises a collection of thirteen essays by different writers, a bibliography, lists of works in the exhibition and film and video programs, and notes on the contributors. There is also a section of plates. Black Male covers all aspects of the visual arts, painting, film and photography and three dimensional art; the essays discuss a wide range of subjects with perhaps an emphasis on film and screen. However, there are also essays specifically on social and political issues, music, gang culture, pornography and gay issues. The contributors while predominantly university professors, include a mix of male and female writers, critics and film makers.

The book itself features a very smart matte-black card cover with minimal white lettering. On the front cover and spine are the words “BLACK MALE” blind embossed. The essays are illustrated throughout in black and white. Images include art photography, films stills, photographs of personalities and other individuals. The section of plates contains 39 full page images in color, with the exception of a few originally black and white pictures. Above Photo: GOLDEN, THELMA . Black Male: Representations Of Masculinity In Contemporary American Art. New York, Whitney Museum Of American Art/Harry N. Abrams. 1994, First Edition. (ISBN: 0874270936) Paper, Over 200pg.


Black Male Links:

1 comment:

Pollard said...

Well, nice to see a highlighting of one of my favourite exhibits that I did not get to see, but definitely enjoyed the catalog and the mass media coverage and dialogue it started. This show was right on time, yet ahead of it's time. It is a topic that will always be relevant as long as the black male has a voice in sports, music, literature and now most prominently in America's national/global affairs.

A show like this is due for a sequel. What will the artists have to say now about the evolution of the mythology? Could be fun.

Thank you for the reminder. I'm off to review my catalog again.