Renee Cox, American, born 1960. Chillin’ with Liberty, 1998. Archival digital print. 39 3/4 x 29 3/4 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Posing Beauty in African American Culture

January 31, 2021 - April 18, 2021

Hodge Gallery Henry Gallery

Posing Beauty in African American Culture explores the contested ways in which African and African American beauty have been represented in historical and contemporary contexts through a diverse range of media including photography, film, video, fashion, advertising, and other forms of popular culture such as music and the Internet. Throughout the Western history of art and image making, the relationship between beauty and art has become increasingly complex within contemporary art and popular culture. This exhibition challenges contemporary understanding of beauty by framing notions of aesthetics, race, class, and gender within art, popular culture, and politics.

The first of three thematic sections, “Constructing a Pose,” considers the interplay between the historical and the contemporary, between self-representation and imposed representation, and the relationship between subject and photographer. The second section, “Body and Image,” questions the ways in which our contemporary understanding of beauty has been constructed and framed through the body. The last section, “Modeling Beauty & Beauty Contests,” invites us to reflect upon the ambiguities of beauty, its impact on mass culture and individuals, and how the display of beauty affects the ways in which we see and interpret the world and ourselves.

Posing Beauty in African American Culture is curated by Deborah Willis and organized by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions, Pasadena, California. 

Please visit our lectures page for information on a related virtual lecture.

Jack Willson Thompson Fund and the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Program Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint

Jack Willson Thompson Fund
and the Truth, Racial Healing,
and Transformation Program
Fund of the Community
Foundation of Greater Flint

From the Exhibition

  • Sheila Pree Bright, American, born 1967. From the “Plastic Bodies” series, 2005. Digital print. 29 3/4 x 24 inches each. Courtesy of Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions.

  • Ernest C. Withers, American, 1922–2007. Isaac Hayes in His Office at Stax Records, Memphis, Tennessee, ca. 1970’s. Gelatin silver print. 15 x 15 inches. Courtesy of Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions.

  • Jeffrey Henson Scales, American, born 1954. Young Man in Plaid, New York City, 1992. Digital print. 35 5/8 x 35 ¾ inches. Courtesy of Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions.

  • Jamel Shabazz, American, born 1960. Drama and Flava from Back in the Days, 2000. Color-coupler print. 29 1/2 x 19 1/2 inches.

  • Charles “Teenie” Harris, American, 1908–1998. Mary Louise Harris on Mulford Street, Homewood, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1930–1939. Gelatin silver print. 13 1/2 x 9 5/8 inches. Courtesy of Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions.

  • Lauren Kelley. American, born 1975. Pickin’, 2007. Color-coupler print. Courtesy of Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions.