Redrawing Race, a captivating and eye-opening exhibition curated by Lexie Webel delves deep into the awareness of racial depictions within the art community and how these depictions create and reflect the attitude of our current cultural and societal views of identity. Redrawing Race showcases works of art from five astonishing artists of color, Michael Ray Charles, Rashid Johnson, Kara Walkers, Glenn Ligon, and Hank Willis Thomas granting its viewers a diverse and unique experience of identity ranging in multitude. Redrawing Race's main goal is to bring awareness to the inequality, indignity, history, and identity of African Americans within the art community, whilst shining a light on many extremely talented artists of color.
Redrawing Race includes five riveting artists all crafting towards depicting equality, diversity, and identity within their works of art. Michael Ray Charles was selected for this exhibition predominantly for his active stance on raising awareness on racial inequality within the art, marketing, and advertising communities. Redrawing Race showcases Michael Ray Charles's pieces to dive deep into the representation of people of color in the media. Moreover, Rashid Johnson was elected for this exhibition for his exemplary use of concepts, forms and techniques to display and address the issues of African American indignity and history within his artwork. Redrawing Race displays Rashid Johnson's focus on the history of African Americans and their link to art, whilst tying in many prominent accents from an African American's childhood. Furthermore, Kara Walkers was chosen for this exhibition for her ability to portray race, gender, and sexuality within her pieces while still tying in a mystical and almost whimsical touch to them allowing the viewer to truly dive deep into the true meaning behind her pieces. Redrawing Race utilizes her pieces to focus on the subliminal messages hidden within art, especially works that depict race and identity. Additionally, Glenn Ligon was nominated for this exhibition for his expertise in “examining cultural and social identity through found sources—literature, Afrocentric coloring books, photographs—to reveal the ways in which the history of slavery, the civil rights movement, and sexual politics inform our understanding of American society”. Redrawing Race utilizes Glenn Ligon's work to connect the history of slavery with the social and cultural identities that are present today. Lastly, Hank Willis Thomas's work was chosen to represent and explore the portrayal of African American identity within art and advertising and how it has evolved over time.
Michael Ray Charles, born in 1967 in Lafayette Louisiana, is an American painter best known for his active stance on raising awareness on the theme of racial inequality within the art, marketing, and advertising communities. Specifically, Michael Ray Charles depicts African American stereotypes from the Antebellum era. Michael Ray Charles is best known for fruitfully crafting “a mimetic vocabulary of cultural, racial, and historicized images to subvert those themes and explore surviving caricatures that continue to appear in popular media” throughout his pieces . Redrawing Race chose to display Michael Ray Charles's piece titled The Family of Seals. The Family of Seals impeccably depicts Michael Ray Charles's goal of bringing awareness to racial inequality and injustice through its condescending sensory elements and demeaning underlying message. The Family of Seals may appear to many as depicting people of African American race to be clowns that put on a show for white individuals. To further support the aforementioned claim, it is important to note the significance and depth of Michael Ray Charles's thoughts on sports and how he and many people believe in the comparison of black athletes being cheered on by white viewers to minstrel shows that were held back in the Antebellum Era. By having the globes balanced on each person's nose, one may assume it leads to the notion that these individuals may feel like they are balancing the weight of the world on their nose due to the racial injustice and discrimination that took place. Furthermore, having the phrase ‘the best show on earth' alludes to the idea that these individuals' lives were treated as a joke or a show on display for others to watch for fun. Conclusively, through the depth of his artwork and passion for advocacy, Michael Ray Charles successfully allows his viewers to experience a cultural and societal experience of racial inequality, misrepresentation, and injustice mirrored in his artwork.
Kara Walker, born in Stockton California in 1969, is a famous artist best known for her ability to portray race, gender, and sexuality within her pieces whistle tying in a supernatural and imaginative note to them. Redrawing Race chose to show Kara Walker's piece titled Darkytown Rebellion. Darkytown Rebellion combines black silhouettes made from construction paper and glued to the walls with wax, as well as the projection of scenes from a short film depicting racism over the piece filling the ceiling, walls, and floor with color. At first glance it may seem as if this piece depicts the first character as a woman who is happy and leaping for joy, but if one takes a closer look you will find that the woman is actually holding a knife in one hand while the other hand is spewing and dripping with blood. When asked about the type of reaction Walker would like her viewers to have about her work she states, “I've seen audiences glaze over when they're confronted with racism," she says. "There's nothing more damning and demeaning to having any kind of ideology than people just walking the walk and nodding and saying what they're supposed to say, and nobody feels anything". Walker wants to bring more awareness to the glance over of racism and hopes that her pieces elicit more than just a look from her viewers. Walker uses a monochromatic color scheme to depict her characters as well as shapes them using stereotypical renderings dating back to times when slavery was prominent. Walker doesn't shy away from the uncomfortable truth and promotes her viewers to do the same: to not just take a quick glance, but to actually understand the true meaning of the piece and the social and cultural idea behind the creation of it.
Glenn Ligon born in 1960 in the Bronx, New York, is an exceptional social and cultural artist best known for his ability to connect the history of slavery with the social and cultural identities that are present today. Redrawing Race presents Glenn Ligon's piece titled Four Untitled Etchings for this exhibition. Four Untitled Etchings utilizes the effect of juxtaposition to display its pictures and phrases on a white canvas. Glenn Ligon utilizes famous compositions from “James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and Zora Neale Hurston” to portray his underlying message that he is exposing to his viewers . Glenn Ligon utilizes smudging techniques, as well as a monochromatic color scheme to further tie in the theme of race and how it is not just a smudge in history. By examining cultural and social identities through African American literature, as well as combining the artistic approach of juxtaposition, color scheme, and smudging techniques, Glenn Ligon successfully connects notes of African American history of slavery with the social and cultural identities that are present today.
Hank Willis Thomas, born in 1976 in Plainfield, New Jersey, is a prominent conceptual artist of our time. Specifically, Hank Willis Thomas explores the Identity of African Americans in the popular culture of today's time. Redrawing Race chose to display Hank Willis Thomas's piece titled Branded Men. Branded Men is a black and white photograph of the side of an African American's head with the famous athletic company Nike's “just do it” logo branded on his scalp. Similar to Michael Ray Charles's thoughts on sports and how he and many people believe in the comparison of black athletes being cheered on by white viewers to minstrel shows that were held back in the Antebellum Era, Hank Willis Thomas is trying draw the connection on “how slaves were branded as a kind of ownership, and [how] today we brand ourselves”. One may view Hank Willis Thomas's works as a testament to the current state of the marketing and promotion of identity in terms of African Americans. By utilizing current socio and cultural themes of today, Hank Willis Thomas successfully demonstrates a different view of the art of advertising when depicting people of color mirrored in his art.
Rashid Johnson, born in 1977 in Chicago, Illinois, is an interdisciplinary artist best known for his use of concepts, forms and techniques to display and address the issues of African American indignity and history within his artwork. Specifically, Rashid Johnson depicts African American Identities from the past and current time periods. Redrawing Race chose to display Rashid Johnson's set titled Anxious Men. Rashid Johnson stated that the inspiration for Anxious Men stems from “global immigration issues, attacks on America, and attacks within America by police on young black men, Johnson states, the concept of investigating just his own anxiety seemed insufficient, and he began drawing multiple anxious faces instead. “I was coming to the realization that my anxiety was not mine exclusively”. Anxious Men is a stunning member composed of black African soap and wax pressed and scratched onto white tile. With the use of shea butter and African black soap, Rashid Johnson is successfully able to tie in prominent products used throughout his childhood as well as products that carry weight within the African American communities . Rashid Johnson's piece depicts the extremely worried and frightened faces of men, which one could compare to the feeling of being of color in this country. Anxious Men depicts how the identities of people of color are altered, presented, and looked at touching on the inequalities and unfair treatment that people of color may experience in this country. By utilizing a monochromatic color scheme, prominent materials and products used in African American communities, as well as his design of highlighting African American identities and history, Rashid Johnson is successfully able to embody the theme of African American Identity mirrored in his artwork. Anxious Men successfully captures the viewers attention and allows the viewer a look inside what many African Americans may be feeling in terms of equality and perception in today's cultural and societal state.
Redrawing Race successfully encapsulates the social and cultural theme of African American Identity through the presentation of five tremendously talented African American Artists. Through the riveting work of Michael Ray Charles and his ability to allows his viewers to experience a cultural and societal experience of racial inequality, misrepresentation, and injustice, Kara Walker and her courage to bring awareness to the glance over of racism, Glenn Ligon and his ability to connect African American history of slavery with the social and cultural identities that are present today, Hank Willis Thomas and his talent of demonstrating a different view of the art within advertising when depicting people of color, and Rashid Johnson and his skill of connecting the viewer to tap into the emotions that are elicited from discrimination and inequality, Redrawing Race pushes its viewers to question and broaden their study on the cultural and societal experience of racism, discrimination, appropriation, and identity mirrored within the art community and beyond.
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