Dandy Lion: (Re)Articulating Black Masculine Identity | Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College | Galleries | Chicago Reader

Dandy Lion: (Re)Articulating Black Masculine Identity Member Picks Agenda Recommended Image Closing (Theater and Galleries)

When: April 6-July 12 2015

Though they sport canes, top hats and animal prints, the men in the Museum of Contemporary Photography's new exhibition "Dandy Lion: (Re)Articulating Black Masculine Identity," featuring the work of more than 25 photographers and filmmakers, represent more than snappy dressing. "Today's black dandy isn't responding as much to white America or Europe as much as he is responding to himself," says Shantrelle Lewis, the exhibit's curator. "The black dandy today is more or less referencing his grandfather and/or other men of a past generation within his own community—not imitating the Other." Photographed against urban, abstract, and wildlife backgrounds, the men pictured in "Dandy Lion" seek to manifest an African aesthetic as opposed to parodying or impersonating Western aristocrats. Some typify a previous age, as in Harness Hamese's black-and-white print For Every Strong Woman, There Are Strong Men—Khumbula (2014), a portrait of half a dozen men and one woman, all dressed in vintage garb, standing in front of a dilapidated building in Johannesburg, South Africa. The unifying strength and energy within the print is compelling—the expressions unyielding to those who look upon them. "An exhibition about dressing up won't stop someone from being racially profiled or stopped and frisked," says Lewis, but "it will most certainly help to dismantle the notion that blackness is monolithic, tied to slums and violence and negativity. Blackness is all encompassing, expands across oceans, socioeconomic status, education, and culture. The stereotyping of the black community and particularly of black men is so overdone, and honestly we [the global black community] are over it." —Zara Yost

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