As “Renaissance: Noir” draws to a close on July 3rd, I reflect on the discussion that gave birth to the exhibition and the circumstances that led to its timeliness. It began with a conversation nearly a year ago with Arthur Lewis, the then newly-appointed Creative Director of UTA Fine Arts and UTA Artist Space. Lewis extended an invitation to curate an exhibition in the UTA Artist Space and granted me full autonomy over the curatorial process. The show, originally slated to open in November 2019, was delayed because of scheduling and further postponed as a result of the pandemic. Because of Lewis’s unyielding commitment, the show became a virtual experience.
In its timing, the exhibition is not a reaction to the murder of George Floyd and countless others who have lost their lives to police brutality or at the hands of white supremacists but, rather, a response to, and an ongoing examination of, the history of Black people forced to live an existence under the social European construct of race and the false notion of white superiority.
In turning to the work of artists featured in “Renaissance: Noir,” there is a celebration of Blackness through narratives that bear witness to the truth of the African American experience, presented unabashedly and unapologetically. There lies within commentaries that cause feelings of dis-ease to those who believe their Whiteness is threatened by imagery that depicts a Black reality that unveils systemic racism in this country. And in its genius, the imagery also serves to validate and elevate the Black body and claim its rightful place in America, while revealing the power of Black strength, intellect and endurance.
Perhaps the imagery holds such potency because it mirrors the current dismantling of white supremacy—the removal of monuments used to perpetuate a fabricated history, as we now seek to face the ugliness of the past and right historic wrongs: a narrative that serves as a common thread that binds the work featured in “Renaissance: Noir.”
In this nation, we are bound by the red, white, and blue As for the orange—well, I’ll leave that for ya’ll to figure out. What I am certain of is that Black Lives do Matter. And until this becomes our mantra and conviction by all, we will continue to fester in a cesspool of hate, murder and racial tension.
As a curator and activist, I’ll continue to deploy art as a weapon to fight against systemic racism and combat the “isms”—racism, colorism, sexism, capitalism, colonialism, escapism, criticism… and raise the level of consciousness for those seeking truth and compassion toward their fellow man and woman, regardless of race.
You can read the curatorial statement for “Renaissance: Noir” here.