Reclaiming the Gaze: African American Prints and Photographs, 1930 to Now

Wednesday February 7, 2018 - Sunday May 27, 2018

(Closed March 9–26)

Reclaiming the Gaze: African American Prints and Photographs, 1930 to Now

Robert Pruitt (American, born 1975), Negra Es Bella, 2014. Two-color lithograph. Published by Tamarind Institute. Collaborating printer: Justin Andrews. Hoy Family Afro-American Visual Arts Fund and Friends of the Davison Art Center funds, 2015. Copyright © Robert Pruitt (photo: Logan Bellew for Tamarind Institute).

The gallery is now closed for the summer; recently on view:

Reclaiming the Gaze presented a dynamic survey of African American prints and photographs from the 1930s to the present. These striking works range from the expressionist style of Hale Woodruff to the photographs of the Civil Rights movement by Ernest C. Withers, and from feminist interventions by Betye Saar and Faith Ringgold to postmodern commentaries on identity by Glenn Ligon and Robert Pruitt.

The exhibition highlighted forty-two prints and photographs from the Davison Art Center collection, representing a wide range of styles and subject matter, and created across nine decades. Each artist claimed his or her vision as an African American, intervening in the artistic conventions that assumed a white male gaze. Hale Woodruff used an expressionist style to convey the horror of lynching in the rural South. In photography, Roy DeCarava sought to create what he described as “the concept of a world shaped by blackness.” Ernest Withers documented the Civil Rights Movement with close-up images of Dr. Martin Luther King. Betye Saar and Fred Wilson reclaimed racist representations for new purposes. Faith Ringgold quoted quilt traditions to celebrate the stories of African American women. Robert Pruitt turns the gaze back on the viewer with an iconic female basketball player in a work titled Negra Es Bella, referring to the phrase “Black is beautiful,” as well as the African diaspora throughout Latin America. Artists represented in the exhibition also included Romare Bearden, Lyle Ashton Harris (Wesleyan ’88), Glenn Ligon (Wesleyan ’82 and D.F.A. 2012), Jacob Lawrence, Gordon Parks, Vincent Smith, James Van Der Zee, Kara Walker, and Carrie Mae Weems.

The exhibition was organized by the students in ARHA 368, Advanced Themes in 20th-Century Afro-American Art, taught by Peter Mark, Professor of Art History, and assisted by Clare Rogan, former DAC Curator, in the spring of 2017. Student curators were Anna Flom ’17, Miranda Gohh ’17, Nathan Johnson ’17, Page Nelson ’17, Renee Palmer ’17, Alexia Warren ’17, and Rielly Wieners ’18.


Related Event:

Opening reception and gallery talk
Wednesday, February 7, 2018, 5:00 pm
Gallery talk at 5:30 pm by Peter Mark, Professor of Art History, and Rielly Wieners ’18, one of the student curators.

The exhibition was closed Friday, March 9 through Monday, March 26, for Wesleyan’s spring break.
Please note that the Goya exhibition originally announced for spring 2018 was cancelled.