In Pictures: This Landmark Museum Show in Virginia Examines How Black Southern Art and Music Inspire One Another
The show includes around 140 works of art.
The streets of Richmond, Virginia are a lesson in how the past and present converge. Statues honoring Confederate soldiers have been toppled, while Kehinde Wiley’s defiant response to the Civil War, Rumors of War, stands sentry outside the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Inside, an exhibition explores the creative output and traditions of Black artists through the lens of music and sound art.
The show, titled “The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse,” features an intergenerational cohort of artists, some self taught, some formally trained, working in a range of media. The show gathers more than 140 sculptures, paintings, drawings, films, photographs, installations, and sound works, all intermingling in the galleries.
Upon entering the cavernous museum, visitors are drawn down a hallway where the show’s introduction is Paul Stephen Benjamin’s Summer Breeze, an installation featuring a lyric from Billie Holiday’s heart-wrenching song about lynching, Strange Fruit, projected on a video screen and filling the gallery.
The work is surrounded by other screens showing Jill Scott’s 21st-century rendition of the song, while, on a pyramid of televisions behind the singers, a young Black girl plays on a swing set.
“The confluence between the visual and sonic arts in the Black creative expression has long been recognized,” the show’s curator, Valerie Cassel Oliver, said in a press release. “What has remained elusive, particularly in the presentation of these forms, is the long trajectory of this exchange.”
“André 3000’s iconic phrase, ‘The South’s got something to say,’ really sparks for me a meditation to dig deep and to understand how Southern hip-hop artists were shaping their identity within the bedrock of the landscape that they knew and the creative expression born from the history of that landscape,” she added.
See images from the show below.
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