Black in America

Oct 17 – Nov 30
Benson University Center
Mark Reece Gallery, 4th floor

I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background
― Zora Neale Hurston

Themes of racism, black culture, poverty and the American South are highlighted in this focus exhibition of selected artwork from Wake Forest University’s art collection. Walker Evans’ documentary-style, iconic photographs of Winston-Salem and the American southeast, distills the essence of life in the region and have become part of our nation’s shared visual history of the Great Depression. Born and raised in the rural south, Claude Howell and Robert Gwathmey depicted the world around them,
emphasizing social injustices and the human condition. Made just months following the Rodney King verdict, Carter Kustera’s painting of the video footage of targeted police brutality emphasizes the years of racial and economic inequality as well as media manipulation that led to the LA riots. With his trademark use of language and text in his prints and paintings, Glenn Ligon calls attention to being black in a white America.

This show was organized as a collateral exhibition to Professor Kiese Laymon’s residency on campus this October, which includes discussions about his book, Heavy: An American Memoir. His work centers around themes such as the culture and experience of life in Southern black America, access to education, wealth disparities, and complicated, sometimes violent familial relationships. The artwork in the exhibition encompass these themes, versions of perceptions of black lives, the black experience and life in the American South.

Kiese Laymon, the Ottilie Schillig Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi will be on campus for a workshop with students October 28 and 29. Laymon will also give a public lecture on October 30th at Porter Byrum Welcome Center. The workshop is sponsored by the Engaged Liberal Arts in the College of Arts & Sciences and the Intercultural Center. Laymon’s visit is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

-Curated by Jennifer Finkel, Curator of the Office of University Art Collections, and Sarah Comegno (’21).