Exhibition Dates: October 13, 2011 – December 22, 2011
Opening Reception: October, 13th 6-9PM
The Caribbean Cultural Center/African Diaspora Institute; 408 West 58th Street, New York, NY 10019

Words: Dexter Wimberly
Images: Courtesy of The Caribbean Cultural Center/African Diaspora Institute

Dirty Sensibilities: A 21st Century Exploration of the New American Black South, a new exhibition exploring Southern culture and its influence on American art and politics opens tomorrow, October 13, 2011 at the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute in New York.

America’s southern states are often viewed monolithically, through a narrow and stereotypical lens of a romanticized antebellum past, post Civil War unrest and 20th Century Civil Rights politics. Dirty Sensibilities explores current issues such as race relations in the Age of Obama, the survival of Southern folk traditions, post-Civil Rights realities, the significance of relationships with elders and the creation of a new Southern aesthetic.

“Much of what is known about the Black experience in the South focuses on a historical period often directly related to the oppression of enslaved Africans, their struggle for liberation and their struggles for Civil Rights after the brief period of progress experienced during Reconstruction. However, the Southern narrative includes a history rich in culture, spirituality and Africanisms that have thrived over the past 400-plus years,” states the exhibition’s curator Shantrelle P. Lewis. “This exhibition seeks to explore those idiosyncrasies that are unique to the region of the United States situated below the Mason Dixon Line.”

Ms. Lewis recently relocated to Brooklyn, NY and is currently the Director of Public Programming and Exhibitions at the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) in Manhattan. Ms. Lewis is a native of New Orleans who returned home in 2007 to revitalize the McKenna Museum of African American Art where she served as Executive Director and Curator. Shantrelle P. Lewis curates exhibitions that address varying themes that engage commentary and social action towards issues affecting the African Diaspora. Ms. Lewis’ extensive international travel allows her to observe the manifestation of the African aesthetic firsthand, in effort to work toward a definition of an Afro-futuristic aesthetic.

Featured artists include: Christopher Batten, Endia Beal, Kimberly Becoat, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Tosha Grantham, Al Janae Hamilton, Nikita Hunter, Marcia Jones, Aaqil Ka, Nyeema Morgan, Jasmine Murrell, Marilyn Nance, frank d. robinson, Selah Says and Alexandria Smith.

Highlights of the exhibition include artist, Endia Beal, a native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Ms. Beal will exhibit Echoes of the Southside: The Hayti Neighborhood, a photo collection that centers on a house built in 1916 on Scout Drive in Durham, North Carolina, the birthplace of her late grandfather, Hughie Edward Owens. Beal’s images capture the intimate thoughts, dreams, and struggles within the life of minority individuals. Foreign to many, she explores the most under-appreciated and intangible aspects of contemporary life. Beal creates a bond that exceeds those of the subject and the photographer. Her portraits reflect the personal connection and trust that is established during their relationship. As a result, the viewer has an opportunity to glance into the life of someone outside of their usual lifestyle and explore their similarities and differences.

Artist Aaqil Ka whose work has been featured in the exhibitions Re-Imagining Haiti – Le Projet Nouveau at Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts and Homecoming at the Nathan Cummings Foundation, explores the Southern and African aesthetic to discuss the social, economic and political forces operating in the United States and internationally, that shape the community’s material conditions, political thought and cultural expression. Through photos of various families other than his own, Ka offers commentary on how the African-American community influences the character of the United States, while exporting cultural products globally, albeit usually through exploitation. The works document the place of artist’s family in history, and its adaption to changing historical and political times.

Images Courtesy of The Caribbean Cultural Center/African Diaspora Institute.

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