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Annual Exhibition to examine image of black males in modern society

Kehinde Wiley, The Fiery Ascent of the Prophet Elijah, 2014, oil and 22-karat gold leaf on panel. 40 x 24 x 2 in. Courtesy of Pamela K. & William A. Royall, Jr.

Kehinde Wiley, The Fiery Ascent of the Prophet Elijah, 2014, oil and 22-karat gold leaf on panel. 40 x 24 x 2 in. Courtesy of Pamela K. & William A. Royall, Jr.

Randolph College’s 104th Annual Exhibition will feature work that profiles some of the ways black males are viewed in 21st Century America.

The exhibition at the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College is titled Breath/Breadth: Contemporary American Black Male Identity and opens with a reception Thursday, September 3, at 5 p.m. Maier Director Martha Johnson said that while the exhibit was planned over a year ago, it is relevant to much of the recent news involving racial strife.

“I think, upon reflection, one realizes that regardless of when an exhibition like this is staged, there would always be specific social and political events that audiences could point to as informing it,” she said.

Some of the artists behind the featured paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, photography, and mixed media will be on hand to explain their work and answer questions. One of the artists is Lynchburg native Kevin Beasley, whose work has been exhibited in several art museums in New York City and across the nation. He has also been featured in publications like The New York Times and W Magazine.

Johnson said she learned about Beasley’s artistic talent from his mother, who works at a local library.

“Over the years, we’ve chatted about this and that, and she’d told me her son is an artist,” said Johnson. “It wasn’t until I was paging through an issue of Art in America and came across a long article that featured him and his work that I realized how established he has become.”

Todd Gray, Atlanta By Boat, 2015, archival pigment prints. 43 ½ x 61.5 x 21 ½ in. Courtesy of the Artist and Samson Projects, Boston, Mass.

Todd Gray, Atlanta By Boat, 2015, archival pigment prints. 43 ½ x 61.5 x 21 ½ in. Courtesy of the Artist and Samson Projects, Boston, Mass.

For the Annual Exhibition, Beasley joins several other nationally known, contemporary American artists whose work will be featured, including Radcliffe Bailey, Mark Bradford, Nick Cave, Todd Gray, Rashid Johnson, Titus Kaphar, Toyin Odutola, Hank Willis Thomas and Kahinde Wiley.

In addition to the opening reception, Beasley, Gray, and Odutola will participate in a panel discussion as part of the 24th Annual Helen Clark Berlind Symposium Friday, September 4, which will be moderated by Evie Terrono, an art history professor at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. The discussion starts at 6 p.m. and will be preceded by a 5:30 p.m. reception.

The discussion will continue Saturday, September 5, at 11 a.m., when Gray will speak. At 1:30 p.m., Terrono will give the lecture “Civil War to Civil Rights: How African American Artists Engage the Past,” which examines the depictions of the multifaceted and highly politicized dimensions of race and American identity in the artistic productions of African American artists. A reception will follow.

“I hope that people will enjoy the work at face value and get a sense of what each artist may be saying about identity,” said Johnson. “I hope the exhibition reinforces that concept of diversity within a demographic in order to avoid stereotypes, and that it is yet another example of the expressive potential of art and its unique ways of communicating and understanding in our world.”



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