Saturday, February 26, 2011

African American Images from the 1890s to the Present

A wonderful treat to read,look through,ponder--
Posing Beauty by Deborah Willis

Related exhibition descriptions:

Posing Beauty (Exhibition) @NYU/@Newark Museum/@Williams College Museum of Art


  • Part of the book's purpose is to "challenge conventional perspectives on how identity revolves around beauty...(xx)"

  • Maria Elena Buszek on why Ebony began to feature attractive ladies on the cover (although their first few issues did not): "Beauty is skin-deep -- and that goes for brown as well as white skin. You'd never think it, though, to look at the billboards, magazines and pimp posters of America. Cheesecake (photographers' jive talk for sex-appeal pictures) is all white. But the Petty Girl notwithstanding, Negro girls are Beautiful too. And despite the fact that Miss America contests hand out "for whites only" signs, there are thousands of Negro girls lovely enough to compete with the best of white American pulchritude (xxiii)."

  • Regarding the marketing of advertising imagery et. al., "these images were targeted to a market where the consumer idealized and modeled the new look: beautiful, glamorous, stylish, and most of all desirable. Paul Gilroy argues that 'the Black consumer of these images and products, multi-variant processes of consumption, may express the need to belong, the desire, to make the beauty of Blackness intelligible, and to somehow fix that beauty and the pleasures it creates so that they [can] achieve, if not permanence, then at least a longevity that retrieves them from the world of pop ephemera and racial dispossession (xxvi).'

  • IfĂ©tayo Abdus-Salam's American Exotic series poses the quetsion,"How do these images simultaneously influence the psyche, ideas and self-perceptions of African-American women, and the outside opinions of others (xxvi)?"

Abdus-Salam, Self Portrait as Pam Grier I, 2005
Archival Inkjet Print

  • "Sociologist Maxine Leeds Craig has observed that 'the rhetoric and staging of black beauty contests...grew out of a deliberate effort to demonstrate the falsehood of white depictions of the black race.'"

conversation w/ the author

Meat is life!

It's a shame I don't have a convenient portal to NYC to check this out (Perishables
A solo presentation of new works by Ron van der Ende @ The Armory Show Pier 94 | Booth 1414 March 3-6):

Ron van der Ende, Still Life, 2010

Bas-relief in salvaged wood

70.8 x 40 x 4.75 in | 180 x 102 x 12 cm

Ah well, at least I have a tiny printout of this one:

Pieter Aertsen, Meat Still Life, 1551
Oil on wood panel
123.3 x 150 cm (48.5 x 59")
University Art Collections, Uppsala University, Sweden

Like other moralistic satire pieces, you get to play find-the-Christ. Fun!

"In the 16th and 17th centuries it was quite common for theologians to see a slaughtered animal as symbolizing the death of a believer. Allusions to the 'weak flesh' (cf. Matthew 16:41) may well have been associated with Aertsen's Butcher's Stall where - like on his fruit and vegetable stalls - a seemingly infinite abundance of meat has been spread out."

I've always read this painting however, as an aspect of the flourishing of capitalism (the proliferation of dead meat and other commodities available to all) in a largely Christian area and the ensuing ambivalence between wealth/greed and faith.

But don't forget Paul's injunctions in Romans 14, even during this Lenten season:
"Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them...Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God." Take that, Jesusveg!

P.S. I recently got to see one of my most beloved find-the-christ pictures of all time at the Cloisters in upper Manhattan. It is cited by the Met's Timeline of Art History as an early example of still-life painting (with Joseph and his tools in the right-hand panel. And like Jesus, the first artist (Ron van der Ende)grew up with a father whose medium was wood.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011