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New Haven exhibit celebrates ‘strong, vital energy’ of blacks

NEW HAVEN >> It’s an exhibit that’s meant to be subversive, intended to take back the image of the black American from the racism that persisted in American art and illustrated literature since its founding.

The books, comics, paintings and other works in a new show at the Yale School of Art’s 32 Edgewood Avenue Gallery make the statement that African-Americans are worthy of being portrayed both as superheroes and anti-heroes, challenging established stereotypes, sometimes by being ironically portrayed in those very roles.

“I think we’re trying to talk about the notion of how black people have developed strategies to own their own image within a racist social history and we’re telling the story through printed media,” said William Villalongo, co-curator with Mark Thomas Gibson of the exhibit “Black Pulp!”

While derogatory images of blacks have become collectibles among some African-Americans, a reminder of a sordid racist American history that reached its height during Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era, Villalongo and Gibson are going for the opposite — celebrating the strong, vital energy of black men and women in print and many forms of artwork.

“Sometimes when we were thinking about it and the exclusion of a high amount of the derogatory stuff in film and printed matter … it’s almost like we presented this clear alternative universe,” said Gibson.

“The conversation around black subjectivity is almost always in relation to derogatory imagery,” said Villalongo. “What we’re trying to say is we’re presenting black culture. Derogatory imagery is white culture.” (READ MORE)

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