Black Is, Black Ain't

Location:  Chicago, IL
Project Description: 

Organized and exhibited by The Renaissance Society (University of Chicago), the exhibition project Black Is, Black Ain’t dealt with issues of race and identity. It explored a shift in the discourse on race from an earlier emphasis on inclusion to a present moment where racial identity is being simultaneously rejected and preserved. Consisting of a large-scale survey exhibition at the Renaissance Society, which later traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit and the H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute, there were also a whole range of related public events consisting of conversations, lectures, panel discussions, and poetry readings, organized in partnership with the University of Chicago and Experimental Station. Starting from the idea that an exhibition of all African-American artists no longer passes for one about race, Black Is, Black Ain’t brought together the works of twenty-six African-American and artists who are not African-American reflecting on ideas of “blackness.” The exhibition was an effort to examine the current historical moment where the culturally defined construction of black identity runs parallel with progressive societal efforts to make race socially and politically irrelevant. In so doing, the project highlighted the difficulty, ambiguity, and complexity of the representation of race, a category of our own making. The exhibition and accompanying public events aimed to reveal new perspectives on race, a continuingly relevant issue in American culture, and intended to establish an innovative discourse about black identity. Exhibited artists included: Terry Adkins, Edgar Arceneaux, Elizabeth Axtman, Jonathan Calm, Paul D'Amato, Deborah Grant, Todd Gray, Shannon Jackson, Thomas Johnson, Jason Lazarus, David Levinthal, Glenn Ligon, David McKenzie, Rodney McMillian, Jerome Mosley, Virginia Nimarkoh, Demetrius Oliver, Sze Lin Pang, Carl Pope, William Pope.L, Robert A. Pruitt, Randy Regier, Daniel Roth, Joanna Rytel, Andres Serrano, Hank Willis Thomas, and Mickalene Thomas. In addition to being exhibited at The Renaissance Society (University of Chicago), Black Is, Black Ain’t was hosted by the following institutions: Experimental Station (Chicago, IL), Museum of Contemporary Art (Detroit, MI), and H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute (Kansas City, MO).

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