Harn Museum presents "Posing Beauty in African American Culture"

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Harn Museum presents "Posing Beauty in African American Culture"
Ken Ramsay, “Susan Taylor, as Model,” c. 1970s, Courtesy of Susan Taylor.

GAINESVILLE, FLA.- The Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida is bringing to Gainesville the nationally-touring exhibition Posing Beauty in African American Culture. More than 100 works of art by more than 45 artists and photographers will explore the ways in which African and African American beauty has been represented in historical and contemporary contexts. Posing Beauty will be on view from Jan. 31 to June 4, 2023.

Throughout the history of Western art and image-making, beauty has been idealized and challenged, and the relationship between beauty and art has become increasingly complex within contemporary art and popular culture. In the exhibition works of photography, video, fashion and advertising will challenge the relationship between beauty and art by examining the representation of beauty and different attitudes about aesthetics. Posing Beauty examines contemporary understandings of beauty by framing the notion of aesthetics, race, class and gender within art, popular culture and political contexts.

“I am looking forward to visitors viewing this exciting display of photographs taken by and of Black people,” said Jade Powers, Harn Curator of Contemporary Art. “There are contemporary works alongside works from the early 20th century, spanning over 116 years, all interested in conversations of beauty, what we consider beautiful, why we think this way and who has molded this perception. I hope that as visitors experience this exhibition and the three themes within the show, they have a chance to be inspired both by the photographic styles of the artists and by the resilience of the people being photographed.”

Posing Beauty in African American Culture is organized into three conceptual themes: “Constructing a Pose,” “Body & Image” and “Modeling Beauty & Beauty Contests.” “Constructing a Pose” considers the interplay between the historical and the contemporary, between self-representation and imposed representation, and the relationship between subject and photographer. “Body & Image” questions the ways in which our contemporary understanding of beauty has been constructed and framed through the body. The final theme, “Modeling Beauty & Beauty Contests,” invites us to reflect upon the ambiguities of beauty, its impact on mass culture and individuals, and how the display of beauty affects the ways in which we see and interpret the world and ourselves.

A highlight of artists and photographers in the exhibition includes Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Anthony Barboza, Sheila Pree Bright, Renee Cox, Victor Diop, Leonard Freed, Charles “Teenie” Harris, Dave Heath, Lauren Kelley, John W. Mosley, Ken Ramsay, Jeffrey Scales, Stephen Shames, Mickalene Thomas, Carrie Mae Weems and Hank Willis Thomas, among others.

Harn Museum of Art Director Dr. Lee Anne Chesterfield stated, “We are thrilled to be bringing this exhibition to the University of Florida, along with renowned photography scholar Dr. Deborah Willis who is the exhibition curator, and Professor and Chair in the Department of Photography & Imaging at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Posing Beauty in African American Culture will offer many programs that will provide an opportunity for visitors to engage in conversation about the works on view.”

Programs associated with the exhibition include a gallery discussion between Posing Beauty Curator Deborah Willis and Harn Curator of Contemporary Art Jade Powers. Art After Dark, Museum Nights and Museum Days will offer art-making activities, performances and tours in connection with the exhibition.

Posing Beauty in African American Culture is curated by Deborah Willis and organized by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions, Pasadena, California. The exhibition is curated for the Harn by Jade Powers, Curator of Contemporary Art.

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