As Chelsea Reopens, a New Exhibition Looks at the Experience of Living in a Black Body

Charles Moore, Artsy, August 31, 2020
After months of unprecedented change while the novel coronavirus pandemic transformed daily life, the art world has begun inviting the public to observe the works of their favorite artists in person once again. Implementing a safe and socially distanced framework, galleries are starting to show work “in real life.”
From August 20th through September 8th, New York’s 525 Studios in Chelsea will be a part of this shift. The space is hosting a multi-week celebration of the arts—and more specifically, of Black beauty in modern-day America—in its “VOICES” exhibition. All ticket sales—and 10 percent of all art sales—will go to the Black Artist Fund and ArtStart. The former is an initiative meant to directly support Black artists and arts organizations, in an effort to fight systemic inequity, while the latter promotes an integrated, educational, and sustainable approach to youth arts programming.


Curated by art advisor Anwarii Musa, “VOICES” showcases a hand-selected group of contemporary artists whose works illustrate the power of the Black body. “Its soul exhorts energy,” explained Musa. “The sun and earth amplify its rich melanin tone. As I think about this and all of the generational suffering, I’m reminded of the courage and fortitude that has helped us arrive at this point in our journey.” Musa went on to explain that the same toughness—the same resilience—behind the Black Lives Matter movement took hold in previous centuries, when these artists’ ancestors too faced marked trauma that shaped their daily lives.
There’s still ample progress to be made, but “VOICES” represents an empowering step in the right direction. The exhibition’s curatorial statement examines the notion of “exploring that same Black body,” in large part by showcasing its experiences in the modern era. The message is one of strength, which is apparent in the works of the exhibition’s featured artists—lauded talent like Dominic Chambers,  Collin Sekajugo, Delphine Diallo, Mark C., Phyllis Stephens, Shaunte Gates, and YoYo Lander. There’s an overwhelming sense of physicality throughout, and yet the message is clear: “We Are Strong.”
Consider Baltimore-based artist Amani Lewis’s vibrant canvases. Rampant with color, her work is designed to be almost visceral—abstract yet provocative, all while emphasizing her subject’s connection with the environment and the viewer.
“VOICES” attendees will also have the opportunity to observe more figurative works, including Derrick Adams’s powerful Colin Kaepernick (2018)—an oil-on-canvas named for the polarizing, celebrated NFL quarterback. The piece integrates the stark symbolism of emojis atop a black background, inviting viewers to join in the subject’s confidence and notoriety.