May 26, 2021 PRESS RELEASE
Exhibition Dates: August 7–September 18, 2021
Opening: August 7, 2021, from 6–9 PM, in conjunction with White Linen Night
Gallery Location: 432 Julia Street, New Orleans, LA 70130
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 10am–5pm
Contact Info: 504.522.1999; www.arthurrogergallery.com
The Arthur Roger Gallery and curator Tim Francis are pleased to present Black Beauty, a group exhibition of contemporary icons and today’s emerging prodigies in Black American Art. The exhibition will be on view at Arthur Roger Gallery, located at 432 Julia Street, from August 7–September 18, 2021. The gallery will host an opening reception on August 7th in conjunction with White Linen Night from 6–9 PM.
An important patron of the arts both locally and nationally, Tim Francis 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. As Richard Powell notes in his catalog essay, “Paradigmatic of the 1980s neo-expressionist style, Bearden’s and Brown’s paintings redirect that international movement’s focus away from its Italian and German intermediaries and, instead, towards people and places of the African diaspora where human impulses register unseen yet seismographic connections to nature, the self, and God.” Working in collage and mixed media, Driskell captures a varied and ancient geological history that evokes a sublime divinity. A renowned art historian and collector, Driskell played a critical role in bringing awareness to Black artists and cultivating recognition for Black art.
Lezley Saar and Shoshanna Weinberger explore the ambiguities of biracial identity. Weinberger addresses her relationship with intersectional-identity, alienation, and otherness in her Strangefruit series where she investigates the way marginalized bodies “have been imagined, invented, and shaped through societal interpretations (artist statement)”. Saar explores what she calls the “poetics of identity”, embodying the emotional conflict that results from mistaken identity and the internalizations of mixed heritage by biracial people. 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. A safe creative space, the ballroom culture provides support and an expressive outlet for queer Black and Latinx youth rejected by their families and communities. Photographs of Black Queer men collaged into vogue fem postures and compositions reference neo-cubist styles. Newsome describes ballroom “as a kind of university to teach art history, art production, and art theory in a more democratized way”. Just as Brent McKeever’s portrait embodies a “will to self-adorn that refuses societal expectations”, Rashaad Newsome’s figures challenge the precedent that Black Queer people are expected to be silent and invisible, reclaiming and celebrating black bodies.
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’ public works include enormous murals featuring Black children with messages of power and resilience. The figures, monumental and regally posed, question and rebel against external disparagement as powerful individuals capable of inciting change. 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. In his 7 African Powers series, Pecou directs away from viewing Black people as solely victims to reveal a deeper legacy of identity. Employing varied layers of meaning, Pecou highlights the power of Black beauty while acknowledging its enigmatic side.
Tim Francis 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. In 2014, he chaired the 30 Americans exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans. Tim is dedicated to enriching the New Orleans art community, particularly as it relates to racial consciousness. Black Beauty is Francis’ curatorial debut.
# # #