January 19, 2022

The Black Index

Hunter College

Lava Thomas. Mugshot Portraits: Women of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Addie J. Hamerter, 2018. Graphite and Conté pencil on paper, 47 x 33 ¼ inches. Courtesy of Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco. Image courtesy of the artist and Rena Bransten Gallery. Photo: Phillip Maisel.

Dennis Delgado, Alicia Henry, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Titus Kaphar, Lava Thomas, and Whitfield Lovell

Curated by Bridget R. Cooks, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of African American Studies and the Department of Art History, University of California, Irvine. Presentation at the Hunter College Art Galleries curated in collaboration with Sarah Watson and Re’al Christian.

Hunter College Art Galleries are pleased to announce the traveling group exhibition The Black Index featuring the work of Dennis Delgado, Alicia Henry, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Titus Kaphar, Whitfield Lovell, and Lava Thomas. The artists included in The Black Index build upon the tradition of Black self-representation as an antidote to colonialist images. Using drawing, performance, printmaking, sculpture, and digital technology to transform the recorded image, these artists question our reliance on photography as a privileged source for documentary objectivity and understanding. Their works offer an alternative practice—a Black index—that still serves as a finding aid for information about Black subjects, but also challenges viewers’ desire for classification.

The works in The Black Index make viewers aware of their own expectations of Black figuration by interrupting traditional epistemologies of portraiture through unexpected and unconventional depictions. These works image the Black body through a conceptual lens that acknowledges the legacy of Black containment that is always present in viewing strategies. The approaches used by Delgado, Henry, Hinkle, Kaphar, Lovell, and Thomas suggest understandings of Blackness and the racial terms of our neo-liberal condition that counter legal and popular interpretations and, in turn, offer a paradigmatic shift within Black visual culture.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Hunter College Art Galleries with Hirmer Publishers have produced a full-color illustrated catalogue. Edited by Bridget R. Cooks and Sarah Watson, the publication includes a comprehensive curatorial essay by Cooks, with additional essays by Calvin Smiley, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Sociology department at Hunter College, CUNY, as well as artist bios written by Re’al Christian, Hunter College MA Art History, and Ella Turenne, Visual Studies Ph.D. Candidate at UC Irvine. The publication is available through University of Chicago Press.

The Black Index is dedicated to David C. Driskell.

The Black Index exhibition tour is organized by Hunter College Art Galleries in collaboration with the University Art Galleries at UC Irvine, Palo Alto Art Center, and Art Galleries at Black Studies, University of Texas at Austin.

Lead support for The Black Index is provided by The Ford Foundation with additional support by UCI Confronting Extremism Program, Getty Research Institute, Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte, Humanities New York, Carol and Arthur Goldberg, Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, Leubsdorf Fund at Hunter College, Joan Lazarus Fellowship program at Hunter College, Loren and Mike Gordon, Pamela and David Hornik, University of California Office of the President Multi-campus Research Programs and Initiative Funding, University of California Humanities Research Institute, Illuminations: The Chancellor’s Arts and Culture Initiative, UCI Humanities Center, Department of African American Studies, Department of Art History, The Reparations Project, the Lehman Foundation, and the UC Irvine Black Alumni Chapter. This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Gallery hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 11–5pm. Visitors to the gallery must provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination and wear a mask at all times.

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