From New York to Los Angeles to Amsterdam, African-American beauty and style is on display. Three art exhibitions put it center stage this month, giving us a fresh look (and in some cases, a look back) at the intersections between race, media, gender, class and pop culture.
"Posing Beauty in African American Culture"
The University of Southern California debuted "Posing Beauty" last week, a multimedia exhibit comprised of more than 84 works by renowned artists such as James VanDerZee, Carrie Mae Weems, Robert Mapplethorpe, Weegee and Cecil Beaton. The works are drawn from public and private collections and will be accompanied by a book published by W.W. Norton.
Curator Deborah Willis organized the galleries into three themes -- "Body Image," "Constructing a Pose" and "Model Beauty and Beauty Contests" -- that integrate portraits of unknown, famous and, in some cases, notorious subjects. "The images in this exhibition challenge idealized forms of beauty in art by examining their portrayal and exploring a variety of attitudes about race, class, gender, popular culture and politics as seen through the aesthetics of representation," according to the exhibition description.
"Posing Beauty" runs through December 7.
"Dandy Lion: Articulating a Re(de)fined Black Masculine Identity"
Curated by Shantrelle P. Lewis, "Dandy Lion" explores what she describes as "another phenomenon of style -– the New Age dandy."
Noticeably different from his historical minstrel or Harlem Renaissance queer prototype, the 21st Century Dandy Lion is more masculine than metro-sexual, more of an expression of the African aesthetic and mode of swagger than an imitation of European high-brow society. A Dandy Lion is a contemporary man of SWAG who oozes creativity and makes well thought-out decisions in expressing his individuality. A performance and embodiment of sophistication, dandies are gentlemen of exceptional manners who consciously postulate what it means to be Black, masculine and full of style not simply as performance but an embodiment of a lifestyle.
A portion of the exhibit is on view at the Open Ateliers Zuidoost Studio in Amsterdam through September 18. It will premier as the Fall Exhibition at Aljira, A Center for Contemporary Arts in Newark, N.J. on October 27.WATCH: Dandy Lion's recent showing at Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art (MoCADA) in Brooklyn, N.Y.
"Bronx / Brooklyn / Queens"
Painter Tim Okamura's first solo exhibition in New York in more than five years features a collection of "primarily life-sized works that take the viewer through an exploration of the beauty and complexity of the soulful New York City woman while envisioning her transcendence to 'royal' status," according to the Lyons Wier Gallery in New York City, where it will be on display through October 8.
The title of each piece in the exhibition is a nod to royal culture and the "queens" of the boroughs in each painting. Titles include "The Ascension," "The Coronation," "The Scepter," "Three Queens (from King's County)," "Diadems," and "The Royal Guard (Bronx)."
Here's a peek at the three works: