By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer
West Coast meets East Coast as a new exhibit brings the work of “gifted” Black artists to new audiences this week.
“Young, Gifted and Black: The Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection of Contemporary Art” is at UC Davis’ Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art through Dec. 19.
“Young, Gifted and Black” is curated by Antwaun Sargent and Matt Wycoff and organized for the Manetti Shrem Museum by associate curator and exhibition department head Susie Kantor. Originally scheduled to open in July 2020, the exhibit was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The exhibit brings front and center artists of African descent whose work explores identity, politics and art history. The exhibit is traveling primarily to college and university galleries and museums.
“Young, Gifted and Black gathers and elevates an emerging generation of contemporary artists who are engaging with the work of their predecessors while finding different ways to address the history and meaning of Blackness in their work,” Kantor said.
Featured artists include well-known David Hammons, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, Henry Taylor and Kara Walker, and a younger generation gaining wider recognition, including Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, Sadie Barnette, Cy Gavin, Arcmanoro Niles, Jennifer Packer and others.
“I belong here,” a neon sculpture by Tavares Strachan, is also on loan from the Lumpkin-Boccuzzi collection. Strachan’s sculpture is installed in the museum’s lobby through March.
The exhibit’s featured artists are primarily East Coast-based. The handful from the West Coast includes Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, who lives in Berkeley, and Barnette, of Oakland, whose exhibition “Dear 1968,…” the museum featured in 2017.
“I’m thrilled to be partnering with the Manetti Shrem Museum team in bringing ‘Young, Gifted and Black’ to the West Coast,” said Bernard Lumpkin, the art collector, patron, educator and advocate who spearheads the private collection. “At a time when America is wrestling anew with race and racism, and debates about equality and inclusion in the art world have taken on greater urgency, this exhibition assesses how artists today are shaping the way we think about identity, art and history.”
The OBSERVER spoke with Hinkle about being included in the exhibit, her work and her place in the current art movement. Hinkle’s piece, “A Strong Wind, 2014” from her ongoing series “The Uninvited” is part of the exhibition.
Q. How do you describe your style and the motivation for your art?
A. I want to make work that allows the dead to speak, that allows the ghosts of colonial histories to have the space to be fully present.
Q. How and why do you reflect the beauty of Black women in your art?
A. Beauty is such a subjective term. What we have come to know as beautiful was still constructed by the colonial gaze and specifications. I am trying to interrupt the narrative of beauty and exotification within the postcard imagery that I work with in order to create alternative truths and narratives that photos capture and don’t capture simultaneously. I am interested in the fine line between repulsion and desire and how the Black femme body straddles that line throughout history and in the contemporary moment that we find ourselves in.
Q. People talk about art movements – the Black Renaissance, the Black Art Movement. What’s going on in art now and what do you see your contributions being?
A. My contributions are to continually make work about the things that haunt and plague our shared historical present. I make work that doesn’t allow the ghosts of history to remain unacknowledged. I am interested in the past being present and how we cannot move forward until we address it in order to make us whole as a global society in relation to so many ecosystems and people harmed by the exploitation of our ancestors.
Q. When I hear the title “Young, Gifted and Black,” I, of course, hear the song in my head, which says, “To be young, gifted and black is where it’s at.” How did you get included in the exhibit and what does it mean to be a Black artist in today’s world?
A. Nina Simone wrote the song to honor her beloved friend and playwright Lorraine Hansberry. It was a battle cry of Black liberation. My piece was collected earlier in my career by the Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection. Antwan Sargent curated the show and so generously included my piece in their traveling exhibition. I consider myself to be an artist that just so happens to be Black. Being an artist is being a shaman and healer to me and my cultural ties make my shamanism specific to certain traditions. I am happy that artists who are Black are getting the attention and monetary support that we deserve, but it is my hope that this is not a moment but a major cultural shift and movement.
Q. One of the beautiful things about art is that different people can get different things from a particular work. What do you want people to walk away from your work with?
A. It depends on who is looking at the piece. We all have different relationships with colonialism as victims or beneficiaries. I would like for people to walk away in deep contemplation of those differences. I am interested in shifting the audience of my work from spectator to witness and within the witnessing, they leave the museum or gallery and share what they experienced from my art. For me, that is the real art – when someone is so moved to continue having conversations about it outside of the context of the exhibition about what role they play within our shared historical present.
Q. What do you think of art appreciation in the Black community?
A. I feel that Black people are walking works of art. The way we talk, move, think and express ourselves. I see no distinction between White gallery museum walls and what we invent and express on a daily basis inside and outside of these spaces. We appreciate art in the compliments that we give each other and how we find creative ways to navigate White supremacy on a daily basis. That is art appreciation to me.
The Manetti Shrem Museum is at 254 Old Davis Road, Davis 95616. Admission is free. The museum is open 11 a.m.- 6 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday, and 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit manettishrem.org.