Exhibition Review: Black Eye

Exhibition Review: Black Eye
1 June 2014 Jessica Lynne

Xaviera Simmons, Index Two, Composition One

Index Two, Composition One
Color photograph
40 x 50 inches
Edition of 3
Here’s a challenge.

Name ten black contemporary artists. Can’t do it? Alright, name seven. No? Five. Still drawing a blank? It’s okay. You’re not alone. Apparently the curators of this year’s Whitney Biennial drew a blank too.

Amnesia of this sort is routine in the today’s contemporary art world. But I’ll let you in on a secret. There are hundreds of black artists around the globe creating amazing art everyday. Perhaps more.

Thankfully, curator Nicola Vassel is already in on this secret and her latest exhibition, Black Eye, emerges as a remedy of sorts. A pop up show featuring 26 of the most talented black contemporary artists today that says in no small measure: We’ve been here. We’ve been trill.

Without prosthelytizing, Black Eye explores the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality in a manner that denies the existence of a black monolith. Instead, the show represents a nuanced rejection of race as a sole marker, perhaps even more emphatically, the primary marker of identity. Black Eye is, as the manifesto accurately notes, rooted in “…idealism forged from the millennial mindset which highlights the definition of “self” as a limitless, layered and wonderfully fragmented whole.”

Toyin Odutola, Kerry James Marshall, Maria Magdelena Campos Pon and Christian Rosa are just four of the artists with work on view in a show that is as intergenerational as it is diverse in medium.

Jayson Musson’s “My Million Dollar Idea,” an oversized text piece that “pitches” a new reality show featuring white folks who attempt to find the white neighborhood after being dropped in a black neighborhood is so hilarious that if you’re not careful, you’ll miss the brilliance. And in some ways, Xaviera Simmons’ photographs – true to her work exploring the connections of history, memory, and evolving realities- are emblematic of Black Eye’s larger theme: we are more than the sum of our total parts.

Black Eye is a statement exhibition, one that dares put forth a new way of seeing. Vassel’s own million dollar idea.

The message is quite clear: Yes. We have indeed been here. We have indeed been trill.

For more information on the exhibition, featured artists and curator, visit: www.blackeyeart.com.

Jessica Lynne is a Brooklyn based writer and independent curator. She received her BA in Africana Studies from NYU. She has been awarded residencies and fellowships from The Sarah Lawrence College Summer Writers Seminar, Callaloo, and The Center for Book Arts. She currently serves as the development manager for 651 ARTS, a Brooklyn based performing arts organization. She’s also one-third of the Zora Magazine editorial team.


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