Posing Beauty in African American Culture

Posing Beauty in African American Culture examines the contested ways in which African and African American beauty has been represented in historical and contemporary contexts through a diverse range of media including photography, film, video, fashion, advertising, and other forms of popular culture such as music and the Internet. The exhibition explores contemporary understandings of beauty by framing the notion of aesthetics, race, class, and gender within art, popular culture, and political contexts. The exhibition is organized by the Department of Photography & Imaging at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, traveled by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions, and curated by Dr. Deborah Willis. The touring exhibition is made possible in part by the JP Morgan Chase Foundation. Additional support has been provided by grants from the Tisch School of the Arts Office of the Dean’s Faculty Development Fund, Visual Arts Initiative Award from the NYU Coordinating Council for Visual Arts, and NYU’s Advanced Media Studio. Drawn from public and private collections, Posing Beauty features approximately 85 works by artists such as Carrie Mae Weems, Charles “Teenie” Harris, Eve Arnold, Gary Winogrand, Sheila Pree Bright, Leonard Freed, Renee Cox, Anthony Barboza, Bruce Davidson, Mickalene Thomas, and Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe. Posing Beauty in African American Culture is sponsored by Dominion. Richmond (VA) Chapter, The Links, Incorporated. The Miles Family. The Banner Exhibition Program at VMFA is supported by the Julia Louise Reynolds Fund. Media partners are CBS6, Radio One, Richmond Free Press, and Style Weekly.

Identity Shifts

In conjunction with Posing Beauty, this VMFA collection-based, companion exhibition features works by African American artists. These representations of the human figure or aspects of the body explore how we perceive and express personal and cultural identity. The selection of paintings and sculptures—from the 1970s to the present—features an array of perspectives and styles that underscore the complex factors informing ideas of race and gender. Many of the 21st century artists—such as iona rozeal brown, Trenton Doyle Hancock, and Robert Pruitt—mix national, international, historical, and pop-culture references with personal stylistic preferences to produce images that provoke more questions about identity than they answer. The selection of photographs offers a survey of 20th- to 21st-century work—from James VanDerZee to Carrie Mae Weems to Hank Willis Thomas—while also highlighting the work of lesser-known artists, such as Richmond native Louis Draper, who played a primary role in founding the first African American photography collective, Kamoinge, in New York in 1963. Many of these works will be on view at VMFA for the first time. Curated by Dr. Sarah Eckhardt, Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

Free for VMFA members, children 6 and under, and active-duty military personnel and their immediate families.

$10 for adults

$8 for adult groups of 10+ (please click here)

$8 for seniors 65+

$8 for youth (7 – 17) and students with school ID

Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 804.340.1405.

Contact Visitor Services at visitorservices@vmfa.museum


Posing Beauty TV Spot