Posing Beauty explores the contested ways in which African and African American beauty has been represented in historical and contemporary contexts through a diverse range of media including photography, film, video, fashion, advertising, and other forms of popular culture such as music and the internet.

Throughout the  history of Western art and image-making, beauty as an aesthetic impulse has been simultaneously idealized and challenged, and the relationship between beauty and art has become increasingly complex within contemporary art and popular culture. This exhibit further challenges the relationship between beauty and art by examining the representation of beauty as a racialized act fraught with meanings and attitudes about class, gender, and aesthetics.

In the first of four thematic sections, 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.  The second theme, Body and Image, questions the ways in which our contemporary understanding of beauty has been constructed and framed through the body. The last two thematic sections, Objectivity vs. Subjectivity, and Codes of Beauty, invite a deeper reading 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.

Posing Beauty problematizes our contemporary understanding of beauty by framing the notion of aesthetics, race, class, and gender within art, popular culture, and political contexts.  This exhibit features approximately 90 works drawn from public and private collections and will be accompanied by a book published by W.W. Norton.

Artists in the exhibition include: Eve Arnold, Anthony Barboza [that’s his portrait of Marvin Hagler above], Sheila Pree Bright, Renee Cox, Bruce Davidson, Leonard Freed, Lee Friedlander, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Alex Harsley, Jessica Ingram, Lauren Kelley, Russell Lee, Builder Levy, Elaine Mayes, Jeffrey Scales, Jamel Shabazz, Stephen Shames, Mickaline Thomas, Carrie Mae Weems, Carla Williams, Garry Winogrand and Ernest Withers, among others.

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