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Dawoud Bey in Black American Portraits

To complement the presentation of The Obama Portraits by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald on tour from the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery (NPG), LACMA presents Black American Portraits. Remembering Two Centuries of Black American Art, guest curated by David Driskell at LACMA 45 years ago, this exhibition reframes portraiture to center Black American subjects, sitters, and spaces. Spanning over two centuries from c. 1800 to the present day, this selection of approximately 150 works draws primarily from LACMA’s permanent collection and highlights emancipation and early studio photography, scenes from the Harlem Renaissance, portraits from the Civil Rights and Black Power eras, and multiculturalism of the 1990s. Black American Portraits chronicles the ways in which Black Americans have used portraiture to envision themselves in their own eyes. Countering a visual culture that often demonizes Blackness and fetishizes the spectacle of Black pain, these images center love, abundance, family, community, and exuberance.

 

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