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July 5, 2019 - August 3, 2019

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Curated by Michael Clemmons and Vashti DuBois
Featuring Work By: Michael Anthony Brown, Brandon Dean, Erlin Geffrard, Brandan Henry, Rush Jackson, Moses Jeune, Tiffany D. Jones, Debbie Lerman, Kristine Mays, Kendra McGowan, Jessica O’Lear, Komikka Patton, Taj Poscé, Project Trans(m)it, Tad Sare, Saloni Shah, Stephen Shaheen, and Leon Wen Xu

Opening: Friday July 5, 6-10 pm

Presented in Galleries 1-4 + The Black Box

About the Exhibition

Guest curated by Michael Clemmons and Vashti DuBois of The Colored Girls Museum (Philadelphia, PA), Vox XV: What Makes That Black? is Vox Populi’s 15th annual juried exhibition featuring over 40 artworks selected from over 200 applications to a nationwide open call. On view from Friday, July 5, 2019 – Sunday, August 4, 2019, the exhibition includes 18 artists and collectives working in painting, sculpture, photography, mixed-media assemblage, animation, video and performance.

Curatorial Statement

“Storytelling you know has a real function. Stories differ from advice in that once you get them, they become a fabric of your whole soul. That is why they heal you. “ – Alice Walker

Luana has written an excellent book What Makes that Black?: The African American Aesthetic in American Expressive Culture, which inspired the title of this show. Luana lifts up many ideas regarding the necessity, power and purpose of naming and claiming a black aesthetic and offers a complex multi-layered discussion; we recommend the book.
The artists in this show are not “all Black”, whatever that means; what they do share in this work are visual/performative interpretations of powerful narratives and personal truths. What Makes That Black?, however, is a response to conversations we’re always having, particularly in the realm of art, art making and ownership, about the words we use to establish relationships, to trace the origin, to offer proof or empirical evidence of what or who belongs and what or who does not belong. The words may change, but the underlying concerns are the same: What does that thing have to do with me? Why should I care? Whose story does that belong to?

As we moved from one gallery space to another at Vox Populi – imagining as best we could how works which have never met before, might greet each other, share the space, be altered in meaning and purpose by their proximity to a strange neighbor; we ask ourselves – as keepers of The Colored Girls Museum – the question we imagine some of our peers might ask us or ask themselves (after viewing this exhibit): why did you chose that work, put it in that place, how is all of this informed by your aesthetic, or in other words what makes that black?

There are, perhaps, different questions to ask.

And while, what makes that black? is not a question we asked ourselves when we were invited to curate this show…for certain…what makes that black is our blackness. 

“And I am not attempting to box-in the definition of Blackness or inanely apply my findings to all matters of our complex humanity. That would only diminish Blackness, defeat my purpose,” –  Luana


July 5, 2019
August 3, 2019
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Vox Populi Gallery
319 N 11th Street
Philadelphia, PA United States
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(215) 238-1236