“Can blackness be loved?”
Black culture and museum institutions have often had a negative relationship. Historically, this has included the theft of cultural objects, the appropriation of styles, and the devaluation of skilled practices, as well as the marginalization and exclusion of Black artists from exhibitions and collections. Museums have been implicated in antiblack practices that present racial difference as biological fact rather than social construction, and exclude, marginalize, and devalue Black art, Black artists, and Black life. Recognizing this, About Things Loved: Blackness and Belonging centers a diverse array of Black art in the hope of addressing these questions: To whom does blackness belong? Where does blackness belong? How can blackness belong within the museum?
This exhibition highlights the artworks and intergenerational relationships of Romare Bearden, Girma Berta, Chakaia Booker, Peter Bradley, Erica Deeman, Charles Gaines, Dan Halter, Lyle Ashton Harris, Mildred Howard, Margo Humphrey, Julie Mehretu, Kamau Amu Patton, Faith Ringgold, William Rogers, Betye Saar, Raymond Saunders, Lorna Simpson, Hervé Télémaque, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Charles White, and Fred Wilson. Most of the artwork was produced by Black artists from Africa and its diasporas, drawn from the permanent collections and archives of BAMPFA and the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology. However, crucially, this exhibition does not intend to define Black art or to limit Black artists to a single aesthetic. Rather, the exhibition foregrounds the richness and diversity that becomes visible when blackness is taken as the norm rather than the exception, proposing the museum as a space of care for relationships of justice, equity, and inclusion.
This is the third in a series of annual exhibitions, Cal Conversations, developed in collaboration with UC Berkeley classes.