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New exhibit at TCNJ explores Violence, Visual Culture and the Black Male Body

EWING, NJ … TCNJ English Professor Cassandra Jackson and TCNJ Gallery Director Sarah Cunningham have collaboratively curated an exciting upcoming exhibit titled “Wounding the Black Male: Photographs from the Light Work Collection,” which will be on view from March 16-April 20, 2011.

The central ideas of the exhibit are rooted in Jackson’s most recent book, Violence, Visual Culture, and the Black Male Body (Routledge, 2010). Her book deals with the ways in which the black male body has been visually exploited, and the ways in which contemporary artists have called into question the paradigmatic construction of the black body in American society. The exhibit displays 31 photographs by 19 contemporary artists of African descent, 17 are from the United States, two from Britain. Their work comments on the various representations of black bodies in Western visual culture. These artists confront stereotypes about black male appearance, sexuality, violence, and family, and highlight the ways that visual culture has contributed to the marginalization and exclusion of the black community.

Violence, and more specifically the ways in which wounds have been used to control black masculinity, is central to Jackson’s research. The wounding and modification of the black body is a theme which runs throughout many of the photographs in the exhibit, most notably in the striking photographs of New York City based artist Hank Willis Thomas. Featured in the exhibit, “Branded Chest”(2003) from his “Br@nded” series, is a photograph of an anonymous African American male torso, with a scar of the Nike symbol etched on its left pectoral. Willis Thomas is commenting on the appropriation of the black body in American advertisement and consumer culture, and the implied values that American society assigns to the male body.

All of the works in the exhibit are on loan from Light Work, an artist run photography and digital media center in Syracuse, NY that has been supporting artists since 1973. Light Work has a collection of over 3,500 photographs and art objects. The Collection highlights the work of the over 450 artists who have participated in Light Work’s residency and grant programs, exhibitions and publications.

Exhibit: March 16-April 20, 2011, Art Gallery, 115 Art & IMM Building
Reception: March 16, 5-7p.m., Art Gallery, 115 Art & IMM Building
Artist Talk by Hank Willis Thomas: March 21, 5 p.m., Library Auditorium
Violence, Visual Culture and the Black Male Body: A Lecture by Dr. Cassandra Jackson: April 7, 11:30 a.m., Mayo Concert Hall, Music Building

Visit the College Art Gallery’s website for hours and directions.