current exhibitions

  • 1/11
    Dixie Belles, Central Louisiana, Theodore Fonville Winans, 1938
    (Gelatin Silver Print)
  • 2/11
    Pat Evans, Anthony Barboza, c.1970s
    (Digital Print)
  • 3/11
    Washington Square, New York City, Dave Heath, 1960
    (Vintage Gelatin Silver Print)
  • 4/11
    Harlem Series, Couples, Anthony Barboza, c.1970s
    (Digital Print)
  • 5/11
    Isaac Hayes in his Office at Stax Records, Memphis, Tennessee,
    Ernest C. Withers, c.1970
    (Gelatin Silver Print)
  • 6/11
    Pickin', Lauren Kelley, 2007
    (Color-coupler Print)
  • 7/11
    Model Charlotte Stribling aka "Fabulous" Modeling Clothes Designed and Made
    in Harlem, the Abyssinian Church, New York,
    Eve Arnold, 1950
    (Gelatin Silver Print)
  • 8/11
    At Home, huey P. Newton Listening to Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited",
    Berkeley, California
    , Stephen Shames, 1970
    (Gelatin Silver Print)
  • 9/11
    Fez and Dreds, African American parade, Harlem, Lewis Watts, 2007
    (Gelatin Silver Print)
  • 10/11
    From the "Plastic Bodies" series, Sheila Pree bright, 2005
    (Digital Print)
  • 10/11
    A Desert Queen, Edward Curtis, 1898
    (Modern Digital Print)


Curated by Deborah Willis, Ph.D.

Posing Beauty in African American Culture explores the contested ways in which African and African American beauty have been represented in historical and contemporary contexts through a diverse range of media including photography, film, video, fashion, advertising, and other forms of popular culture such as music and the Internet. Throughout the Western history of art and image-making, the relationship between beauty and art has become increasingly complex within contemporary art and popular culture.

The first of three thematic sections, “Constructing a Pose,” considers the interplay between the historical and the contemporary, between self-representation and imposed representation, and the relationship between subject and photographer. The second theme, “Body and Image,” questions the ways in which our contemporary understanding of beauty has been constructed and framed through the body. The last section, “Modeling Beauty & Beauty Contests,” invites us to reflect upon the ambiguities of beauty, its impact on mass culture and individuals, and how the display of beauty affects the ways in which we see and interpret the world and ourselves.

Artists in the exhibit include, among others, Carrie Mae Weems, Charles "Teenie" Harris, Eve Arnold, Gary Winogrand, Sheila Pree Bright, Leonard Freed, Renee Cox, Anthony Barboza, Bruce Davidson, Mickalene Thomas, and Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe.

Posing Beauty in African American Culture challenges contemporary understandings of beauty by framing notions of aesthetics, race, class, and gender within art, popular culture, and politics.

View Prospectus (PDF)

Number of Works: 84 photographs, 1 video

Frame Sizes: Various

Space Requirements: Approximately 350 linear feet (108 linear meters)

publication: Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present,
W.W. Norton, 2009

lectures: Curator available


Need Supply Co., Molly Szkotak, May 18, 2014
Richmond Times-Dispatch, Tammie Smith, May 3, 2014
Arts Atlanta, Harriette Grissom, September 26, 2013
Quad City Times, David Burke, September 8, 2012
Intersections South LA, Ariele Pratt, January 4, 2012
Abington Journal, February, 2012
Times Tribune, Patrice Wilding, January 31, 2012
Intersections South LA, Ariele Pratt, January 4, 2012
Intersections South LA, Laura Santana, November 23, 2011
Wilson's Where To Guide, October 28, 2011
Huffington Post, Rebecca Carroll, October 3, 2011
ArtsBeatsLA, Pauline Adamek October 3, 2011
Carbonated.TV, September 28, 2011
Mazur Group, September 28, 2011
Artweek.LA, September 26, 2011
Los Angeles Times, Melissa Magsaysay, September 25, 2011
Neon Tommy, Tricia Tongco, September 8, 2011
Daily Trojan, Sheridan Watson, September 7, 2011
Art Practical, Crystal Am Nelson, 2011
DotPhotozine, Courtney Altson, 2011
NJN News, Marie DeNoia Aronsohn, February 17, 2011
The Record, John Zeaman, February 7, 2011
Art Daily, February 4, 2011
The Star Ledger, Dan Bischoff, January 29, 2011
The Boston Globe, Mark Feeny, October 31, 2010
Art Daily, June 16, 2010
Roanoke Times, Mike Allen, June 8, 2010
Canadian Art Online, Sally Frater, March 11, 2010
New York Times, Jennifer Braszile, December 3, 2009

The exhibition is organized by the Department of Photography & Imaging at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts. The exhibition is curated by Deborah Willis, University Professor and Chair of the Department. Additional support has been provided by grants from the Tisch School of the Arts Office of the Dean’s Faculty Development Fund, Visual Arts Initiative Award from the NYU Coordinating Council for Visual Arts, and NYU’s Advanced Media Studio.

     Support for the touring exhibition from