Lalla Essaydi, Harem #I (detail), 2009, C-41 print on aluminum, 60 x 48 in., The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art at Rollins College, Gift of Barbara '68 and Theodore '68 Alfond 2013.34.055. Image courtesy of the artist and Howard Yezerski Gallery
January 14–April 2, 2017

Reframing the Picture, Reclaiming the Past

Reframing the Picture, Reclaiming the Past addresses some of the themes and concepts presented in the historical exhibition, The Black Figure in the European Imaginary. This exhibition of contemporary art will depict the black body as part of an ongoing conversation in which the contemporary works “talk back” so to speak, with the historic works presented in The Black Figure. While obviously much has changed since the nineteenth century, it is clear that blackness and Africanness are still fraught, charged, and contentious issues. How these tensions play out in visual representations is often the direct result of the way in which blacks were imagined in past centuries, so that there is an ongoing dialogue between contested identities of the past and the present. Examples are the American artists Lyle Ashton Harris, Kara Walker, and Whitfield Lovell, who employ tropes of blackness in their work in order to expose the tropes’ arbitrary, imaginary, and often dehumanizing nature, and through this exposure, to reclaim or re-imagine the black body. Similarly, although not depicting the black body, the Moroccan artist Lalla Essaydi’s photographs deconstruct the sexualized stereotypes of the nineteenth-century European’s imaginary “harem woman.”

This exhibition is curated by Rollins College Professor Susan H. Libby, Ph.D. and her students.

Lyle Ashton Harris, (American, b. 1965), Toussaint L'Ouverture, 1994, Dye diffusion transfer print (Polaroid), 24 x 20 in., Private collection. Image courtesy of the artist
Whitfield Lovell, (American, b. 1959), Patience, 2004, Charcoal on wood, radio, 11 x 8 1/2 inches framed, Purchased with the Michel Roux Acquisitions Fund Cornell Fine Arts Museum, 2015.10 © Whitfield Lovell. Image courtesy of DC Moore Gallery, New York

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