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Exhibition spotlights black visual culture

In an upcoming exhibition, visual images -— both historical and contemporary — converse with each other in an unprecedented survey of over 90 years of visual culture bearing witness to the black experience.

Black Pulp!, curated by William Villalongo, a lecturer at the School of Art, and Mark Thomas Gibson ART ’13 opens this week at the School of Art’s 32 Edgewood Gallery. The exhibition brings together artifacts and artworks from Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Library, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Library of Congress and the Yale University Art Gallery. According to the exhibition’s press release, Black Pulp! focuses on print media, historical documents and contemporary art that foreground the creative use of highly disseminated visual images to “leverage limited notions of black subjectivity and humanity.”

“Essentially, the show tells the story of how, over a period of time spanning from 1920s [onward], black artists and publishers have sort of been able to rebuff and overturn the stereotypical imagery of black people through a strategy of printed media,” Villalongo explained.

With more than 60 rarely seen objects on view, including collages, comics, art journals, periodicals, prints, sculptures, video art pieces and performance art, the show offers a wealth of voices from the past and present that critically engage with the derogatory history surrounding representations of the black body in mainstream American culture. As Gibson explained, the show points to the intersection between the print culture of the Harlem Renaissance and the art and comics produced in the more recent decades — they all use “heroic, dynamic, lurid and satiric imagery to define or comment on the complex nature of the black experience.” Villalongo also noted the show’s overarching narrative of the black community “owning their own identity and their own image” across history.

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