Exhibition | Reclaiming the Gaze: African American Prints and Photographs, 1930 to Now

From the Davison Art Center at Wesleyan University:


Robert Pruitt (American, born 1975), Negra Es Bella, 2014. Two-color lithograph. Published by Tamarind Institute. Collaborating printer: Justin Andrews. Hoy Family Afro-American Visual Arts Fund and Friends of the Davison Art Center funds, 2015. Copyright © Robert Pruitt (photo: Logan Bellew for Tamarind Institute).

The Davison Art Center at Wesleyan University is pleased to present the exhibition Reclaiming the Gaze, a dynamic survey of African American prints and photographs from the 1930s to the present. These striking works range from the expressionist style of Hale Woodruff to the photographs of the Civil Rights movement by Ernest C. Withers, and from feminist interventions by Betye Saar and Faith Ringgold to postmodern commentaries on identity by Glenn Ligon and Robert Pruitt.

The exhibition through Sunday, May 27, 2018. The exhibition highlights forty-two prints and photographs from the Davison Art Center collection. Created across nine decades, these works represent a wide range of styles and subject matter.

Each artist claimed his or her vision as an African American, intervening in artistic
conventions that assume a white male gaze. Hale Woodruff used an expressionist style to
convey the horror of lynching in the rural South. In photography, Roy DeCarava sought to create what he described as “the concept of a world shaped by blackness.” Ernest Withers documented the Civil Rights Movement with close-up images of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Betye Saar and Fred Wilson reclaimed racist representations for new purposes. Faith
Ringgold quoted quilt traditions to celebrate the stories of African American women.
Robert Pruitt turns the gaze back on the viewer with an iconic female basketball player in a work titled Negra Es Bella, referring to the phrase “Black is beautiful,” as well as the
African diaspora throughout Latin America.

Artists represented in the exhibition also include Romare Bearden, Lyle Ashton Harris
(Wesleyan ’88), Glenn Ligon (Wesleyan ’82 and D.F.A. 2012), Jacob Lawrence, Gordon
Parks, Vincent Smith, James Van Der Zee, Kara Walker, and Carrie Mae Weems.
The exhibition was organized by the students in ARHA 368, Advanced Themes in
20th-Century Afro-American Art, taught by Peter Mark, Professor of Art History, and
assisted by Clare Rogan, former DAC Curator, in the spring of 2017. Student curators
were Anna Flom ’17, Miranda Gohh ’17, Nathan Johnson ’17, Page Nelson ’17, Renee
Palmer ’17, Alexia Warren ’17, and Rielly Wieners ’18.

Visit Exhibition

Reclaiming the Gaze: African American Prints and Photographs, 1930 to Now

On View thru May 2018 (Museum will be closed March 6th – 26th)

Davison Art Center. 301 High Street, Middletown, Connecticut

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, Noon-4pm

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