Who, What, Wear: Selections from the Permanent Collection looks at evolutions in style—self-expression, fashion, artistic technique and societal ideals of beauty—as seen through the Studio Museum’s permanent collection. While artists including James VanDerZee (1886–1983) and Dawoud Bey (b. 1953) evoke the Harlem community as an influential and iconic arbiter of style, this exhibition is national and international in scope, surveying artists and subjects from places as varied as West Africa, the Caribbean and the American South. Including both posed portraits and candid scenes, the works on view emphasize how individuals choose to present themselves, rather than how others have represented them historically. Often these depictions oppose photographic conventions that have reiterated assumptions about what people are supposed to represent, rather than who they are as individuals. The figures on view here defy these practices, demonstrating a complex array of influences and references— hip-hop and pop music, new media and technology, African textiles, traditional dress, street style—that, taken together, refuse any singular “look” or aesthetic and mark culture and tradition as alive and constantly changing.
Hear more about Malick Sidibe and Seydou Keita, two artists in Who, What, Wear, from Candace Keller, Assistant Professor of African Art at Michigan State University.
- Album: The Studio Museum in Harlem
- Track: Candace Keller on Sidibe and Keita 4:46