Reclaiming Black Women in Visual Culture

BLACK VENUS: Reclaiming Black Women of all ages in Visible Culture
Curated by Aindrea Emelife
20 July – 24 September 2023
Terrace Rooms & Courtyard Rooms
Somerset Property
London WC2R 1LA

Somerset Dwelling is delighted to present BLACK VENUS, an exhibition which examines the historical representation and shifting legacy of Black women in visible lifestyle. Curated by Aindrea Emelife, BLACK VENUS delivers jointly the get the job done of about 20 Black females and non-binary artists to explore the othering, fetishisation and reclamation of narratives about Black femininity.

BLACK VENUS pairs in excess of 40 contemporary and generally photographic artworks with a collection of archival imagery, dated involving 1793 to 1930, illustrating historic depictions of Black females and the caricaturing of the Black physique. Discovering the a lot of faces of Black femininity, the show’s up to date works give a riotous affront to a centuries-long dynamic of objectification, showcasing all that Black womanhood can be and has always been.

BLACK VENUS: Reclaiming Black Women in Visual Culture
Ming Smith, Prompt Design, 1976
© Courtesy of the artist and Pippy Houldsworth
Gallery, London.

The exhibition mines the elaborate narratives of Black womanhood by way of the influences of 3 perceived archetypes: the Hottentot Venus, the Sable Venus, and the Jezebel. Through the use of these a few thematic pillars, BLACK VENUS examines the shifting impression of the Black woman in visible culture and the complex lived practical experience that informs the perform of cross-generational ladies and non-binary artists today.

Acquiring debuted in 2022 at New York’s Fotografiska, BLACK VENUS’s presentation at Somerset Household capabilities a new reworking of the themes with about 19 new functions and 6 United kingdom-primarily based artists in the line-up. The exhibition opens at Somerset Dwelling, following the opening of its residency at San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD).

Amber Pinkerton Photograph Booth,
Sabah, Girls Upcoming Door, 2020,
©Courtesy the Artist and ALICE BLACK.

At the centre of the show’s thematic target is the Hottentot Venus, a recurrent archetype through visual tradition and the epithet presented to Sarah Baartman (Ssehura, b. 1789) who, enslaved by Dutch colonists, was toured as a ‘freak show’ show less than this alias. BLACK VENUS contrasts archival depictions of Black women of all ages, which typify colonial-period exploitation and commodification of the Black physique, with evocative portraiture by some of the most influential modern Black graphic-makers whose function promotions with layered narratives of Black femininity. The presentation of these functions in tandem invitations viewers to confront the enduring oppression and exploitation of Black women of all ages and to witness its upheaval in the hands of today’s Black artists.

Delphine Diallo, Highness Blue
(Hybrid 1),2011
© Courtesy of MTArt and the artist.

Vital to Emelife’s development of BLACK VENUS’s strategy is Thomas Stothard’s etching The Voyage of the Sable Venus from Angola to the West Indies (c. 1800) and its location in the very long-standing exoticisation of the Black girl in visual tradition. In the etching, Black attractiveness is framed inside of the context of Western classical culture, as the titular ‘Sable Venus’ rises from the sea on a 50 %-shell, resulting in the predatory awareness of the sea god, Triton. The sexual objectification of the Black lady is also exemplified in the trope of the Jezebel, explored in the exhibition by means of the impression of performer and cultural icon, Josephine Baker. BLACK VENUS examines Baker’s have self-awareness as a device to challenge racial prejudice, satirising Western audiences’ colonialist sexual fantasies and their narrow understanding of Black beauty.

In HOTT-EN-TOT (1994), Renee Cox explores the exhibition’s titular inspiration by posing as the Hottentot Venus. The operate rejects historic depictions of Baartman in a non-confrontational side profile, with Cox as an alternative turning her gaze to the viewer. In Cox’s vision, the graphic of the Hottentot Venus defies transposition into other contexts, in its place locking eyes and purposefully reclaiming agency and house. Elsewhere, Miss out on Thang (2009), from her psychodrama collection ‘The Discreet Allure of the Bougies’, areas its issue amongst the trappings and luxuries of the paradigmatic housewife. Pass up Thang sees the series’ fictional character, Missy, transcend to a spot of self-actualisation and enlightenment.

Multiple will work in the display develop on modern tutorial discourse on the route to freedom and fairness, cast by Black ladies. Ayana V. Jackson’s Anarcha (2017) and Black Rice (2019) offer counterimages to the cruel and dehumanising treatment of the Black gals amongst antebellum slavery and the existing day. With their topics grounded within a nineteenth century historical period, the is effective current the Black woman in repose and control, though subverting colonial depictions of the forcibly laboured Black entire body. Jackson acknowledges a metaphorical pounds fixed upon Black females and problems the notion that fragility and vulnerability are characteristics that belong completely to white women’s bodies.

In Carrie Mae WeemsWhen and Wherever I Enter, the British Museum (2007), Blackness is examined by the artist as an affront to the persistence and ubiquity of European colonialism. As Weems sites herself among the the museum’s vacationers and ionic columns, she is rendered each anonymous and markedly conspicuous: running as an onlooker to the harvesting of diasporic histories. The manner in which we check out record, subjectivity and artistic ownership is questioned by Lorna Simpson’s Picture Booth (2008). Simpson’s installation juxtaposes fifty ink drawings with a host of fifty uncovered images – each and every a photobooth self-portrait. The pictures are at once indicative of their 1940s origins, whilst amorphous drawings prompt a dislocation from time and context, in research of psychological projections from the viewer.

Collaborating artists include things like: Sonia Boyce, Widline Cadet, Shawanda Corbett, Renee Cox, Delphine Diallo, Ellen Gallagher, Ayana V Jackson, Zanele Muholi, Amber Pinkerton, Tabita Rezaire, Coreen Simpson, Lorna Simpson, Ming Smith, Maud Sulter, Kara Walker, Maxine Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Alberta Whittle and Carla Williams.

Aindrea Emelife
Photo by Kemka Ajoku

Aindrea Emelife, curator of BLACK VENUS, suggests: “Rather than simply placing forth a powerful team of contemporary expertise, BLACK VENUS defines a legacy. At a time when Black women of all ages are lastly becoming allowed to claim agency above the way their individual graphic is witnessed, it is essential to observe how we have achieved this minute. In wanting by means of these images, which span various levels of record, we are confronted with a mirror of the political and socio-financial understandings of Black women of all ages at the time and how the lots of faces of Black womanhood continue on to shift in the public consciousness.”

BLACK VENUS is curated by Aindrea Emelife and presented by Somerset Dwelling. The exhibition opens on 20 July 2023 at Somerset Home, London, following its presentation at New York’s Fotografiska and San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD).

Ticketed admission is Pay out What You Can. 

Revisiting the themes of this exhibition with inspiring essays and wonderful reproductions, Aindrea Emelife’s new e-book Black Venus: Reclaiming the Gaze is revealed by Thames & Hudson in Spring 2024.


BLACK VENUS: Aindrea Emelife in Discussion with Sharmadean Reid 

This are living event sees curator Aindrea Emelife in conversation with Sharmadean Reid, founder and CEO of The Stack Earth: a media system for connecting mission-driven women with the target of moving the needle on gender equality and increasing the world-wide GDP of women’s economic climate. Drawing on Reid’s do the job advancing gender equity and social empowerment, Emelife and Reid examine how depictions of Black girls and socio-financial understandings of Blackness intersect with women’s access to leadership. The two embark on a dialogue of the legacies and shifting perceptions of Black women of all ages throughout historical past and by way of to present working day. 

Held in the intimate setting of Somerset House’s Portico Rooms, this dwell celebration is also streamed completely to members of The Stack World neighborhood. Introduced in 2021, The Stack World powers communities within and outside of the office to guidance women on their management journey.

BLACK VENUS: Aindrea Emelife in Dialogue with Sharmadean Reid usually takes spot in the Portico Rooms, (South Wing, Somerset Property) and streams on the web to The Stack Earth members on Friday 21 July 2023.

This function is in partnership with The Stack Earth. Even more details and reserving information and facts to be introduced. 

BLACK VENUS x Up grade Oneself Takeover 

The BLACK VENUS x Enhance You Takeover sees the return of Somerset House’s after-hrs exhibition obtain for young rising and aspiring creatives. This totally free occasion, especially made for 18-30-12 months-olds looking to break into the creative market, presents obtain to the newly launched BLACK VENUS exhibition, interactive talks from exhibition contributors and prospects to network with friends and gurus in a post-show social. This distinctive chance for youthful creatives to attain industry insights and make significant connections is a wonderful way to support their journey in the direction of constructing a thriving job in the creative sector. 

Total general public programme and booking information to be declared.

©2023 Somerset Home

Leave a Reply