The Overwhelming Whiteness of Black Art

Black Art, White Patrons

At Colorlines, Jamilah King writes on the awkwardness of predominately White audiences consuming racially charged Black art

by Colorlines, May 22, 2014

The Overwhelming Whiteness of Black Art

The Overwhelming Whiteness of Black Art

Jamilah King writes on the "unsettling" experience of consuming racially charged Black art while surrounded by a predominately White audience. 

If you go to Kara Walker’s new exhibit, “A Subtlety,” at the Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn, a lot will overwhelm you. You’ll likely wait outside in a line that snakes down Kent Street, across from rowhouses that were once owned by Puerto Rican families and now fetch millions. You’ll sign a waiver absolving the show’s curators of legal responsibility for the asbestos and lead that you’ll inhale while you’re in the dilapidated 158-year old factory. And, once inside, you’ll see at least a dozen “sugar babies” made of molasses and resin—molds of Black children literally melting before your eyes. You’ll smell the molasses as you walk through the exhibit anchored by a 35-foot tall sphinx made of what the artist has called “blood sugar” and sculpted into the shape of a naked mammy. You’ll also see White people. Lots of White people. 

This is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s reassuring that so many White people have a vested — or at least passing — interest in consuming art that deals with race. At the same time I found it unsettling to view art by a Black artist about racism in an audience that’s mostly White. It reinforced the idea that Black people’s histories are best viewed but not physically experienced.

Read it at Colorlines.



(Top Stories on Our Sister Site)

single mom

Dating A Single Mom

by Jazz Keyes

Stay in the Know
Sign up for the Ebony Newsletter