Wounding the Black Male: Photographs from the Light Work Collection

January 17 – May 31, 2012
Jeffrey J. Hoone Gallery
Reception: Thurs, Feb 23, 5-7pm

Light Work is pleased to bring the exhibition Wounding the Black Male to Syracuse. The exhibition was curated by English Professor Cassandra Jackson and Gallery Director Sarah Cunningham, both from The College of New Jersey (TCNJ). The exhibition was on view in the TCNJ Art Gallery in 2011.

The central ideas of the exhibit are rooted in Jackson’s most recent book, Violence, Visual Culture, and the Black Male Body (Routledge, 2010). Her book deals with the ways in which the black male body has been visually exploited, and the ways in which contemporary artists have called into question the paradigmatic construction of the black body in American society. The exhibit displays thirty-one photographs by nineteen contemporary artists of African descent, seventeen are from the United States, two from Britain. Their work comments on the various representations of black bodies in Western visual culture. These artists confront stereotypes about black male appearance, sexuality, violence, and family, and highlight the ways that visual culture has contributed to the marginalization and exclusion of the black community.

Violence, and more specifically the ways in which wounds have been used to control black masculinity, is central to Jackson’s research. The wounding and modification of the black body is a theme which runs throughout many of the photographs in the exhibit, most notably in the striking photographs of New York City based artist Hank Willis Thomas. Featured in the exhibit, Branded Chest (2003) from his Br@nded series, is a photograph of an anonymous African American male torso, with a scar of the Nike symbol etched on its left pectoral. Willis Thomas is commenting on the appropriation of the black body in American advertisement and consumer culture, and the implied values that American society assigns to the male body.

Featuring the following artists from the Light Work Collection: Ajamu, Ellen Blalock, Hilton Braithwaite, Albert Chong, Renee Cox, Lydia Ann Douglass, Bill Gaskins, Anthony Gleaton, Lonnie Graham, Janet Olivia Henry, Max Kandhola, Deana Lawson, David Lewis, Willie Middlebrook, Marilyn Nance, Kambui Olujimi, Coreen Simpson, Clarissa Sligh, and Hank Willis Thomas

The Light Work Collection includes over 3,500 photographs and art objects. Most former Artists-in-Residence, such as Cindy Sherman, John Gossage, Sunil Gupta, and more, are represented with early work that was made during the time of their residency. All images in the collection can be viewed online. The collection adds to the artists’ visibility and is accessed especially by friends of photography, researchers, curators, collectors, educators, and students.

View the exhibition catalogue with introduction by Sarah Cunningham and an essay by Cassandra Jackson.

About the curators:

Cassandra Jackson is a Professor of English at The College of New Jersey. Her research and teaching interests focus on African-American literature and visual culture. Her books include Barriers Between Us: Interracial Sex in Nineteenth-Century American Literature (Indiana UP 2004), and Violence, Visual Culture, and the Black Male Body (Routledge 2010).

Sarah Cunningham has curated over thirty contemporary art exhibitions including Inherited Traits: Nina Katchadourian & Heidi Kumao, Willie Cole: Solo Exhibition and Imag(in)ing the Book: The Work of Xu Bing. She has served as the director of the College of New Jersey Art Gallery, the curator of exhibitions and public programs at the Alice Austen House Museum and executive director/curator of the Albany Center Galleries and is currently working as a curatorial consultant for Rutherfurd Hall. Cunningham received her BA in American Studies from Tufts University and her MFA in Art Photography from Syracuse University.