"As, Not For: Dethroning Our Absolutes" is an incomplete historical survey of work created by African-American graphic designers over the last century. These practitioners are absent in too many classroom lectures, and their methods are mostly invisible or uncredited in the field. This exhibition aims to promote the inclusion of neglected Black designers and their developed methodologies and challenge the ubiquity of White and anti-Black aesthetics in our designed world.
"Ritual: Baptismal in Black," a small multidisciplinary exhibition from the 1970s, and Alain Locke's The New Negro, a critique of Black aesthetics written during the Harlem Renaissance, lead as the main sources of inspiration for the show. The former questions the public's awareness of any Black artists in the world, and the latter argues that African-Americans should speak from their lived experience to reveal personal truths, rather than generalize for the entire race. Taking cues from these two perspectives on Black artistic production, "As, Not For: Dethroning Our Absolutes" interrogates the institutional exclusion and historical omission of Black graphic design and the implications of that excluded status on Black expressive design practice and on graphic design as a whole.
The exhibited works are printed ephemera, all of which are authentic representations of Black culture in the time that they were created. Both original works and reproductions will be on display. Reproduced works are uniformly scaled — in solidarity — to 24’’ x 36” printed posters. The exhibit seeks to question, inspire, activate, and challenge the design community and beyond with the objective of promoting deep history, design theory, and aesthetics of African-Americans.
"As, Not For: Dethroning Our Absolutes" is curated by Jerome Harris. The Seattle presentation of the exhibition is co-organized by the Jacob Lawrence Gallery with Emily Zimmerman, Elizabeth Calvillo, and Raziah Ahmad and Civilization’s Non-Breaking Space by Michael Ellsworth and Molly Derse.