SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2014
Dr. Bridget R. Cooks
Associate Professor, University of California at Irvine
Exhibiting Blackness: African Americans and the American Art Museum
In 1927, the Chicago Art Institute presented the first major exhibition of art by African Americans. Designed to demonstrate the artists’ abilities and to promote racial equality, the exhibition also revealed the art world’s anxieties about the participation of African Americans in the exclusive venue of art museums—places where Blacks had historically been barred from visiting and exhibiting. Since then, America’s major art museums have served as crucial locations for African Americans to protest against their exclusion and attest to their contributions in the visual arts. In this presentation, Dr. Cooks examines this challenging history and relationship. Tracing two dominant methodologies used to exhibit art by African Americans—an ethnographic approach and a recovery narrative—Cooks analyzes the curatorial strategies, challenges, and critical receptions of the most significant American museum exhibitions of African American art of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. By examining the unequal and often contested relationship between African Americans artists, curators, and visitors, she provides insight into the complex role of art museums and their accountability to the cultures they represent.
Bridget R. Cooks is an Associate Professor at the University of California at Irvine. Her research focuses on African American art and culture, Black visual culture, museum criticism, film, feminist theory, and post-colonial theory. She has received a number of awards, grants, and fellowships for her work and has curated several exhibitions of African American art.
ABOUT THE COLLECTING ART HISTORY SYMPOSIUM
Collecting Art History focuses on the invaluable work by collectors of African-American and African Diaspora art—from amateur or modest collectors through to professional collectors and institutions—in contributing to the building of ever more substantial histories of African-American and African Diaspora art. The symposium invites collectors, scholars, museum employees, and others with a range of interests in the collecting and historicizing of African-American and African Diaspora art to participate in this lively discussion.