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What Does It Mean to Exhibit “Black Excellence”?

 written by Seph Rodney, Hyperallergic, April 2, 2020

What do we mean when we say “Black excellence”? It is of the moment to talk about Black excellence, to talk about Black pain and Black resilience as well. But the conversation around how and in what ways Black people manifest virtuoso abilities, particularly in creative work and particularly under the structural constraints that thwart and hinder artists’ aspirations is distinctly pertinent now. There is a legacy of systematic disregard on one hand and exploitation on the other, which colors perceptions of distinction, among Black artists and broader audiences. “Black excellence” can be understood as a rallying cry, an objective, or merely a cliché slogan.

Two exhibitions currently on view in New York take profoundly different approaches to the idea of showcasing Black excellence and thus reveal something about the divergent meanings simultaneously held in this phrase. There is Young, Gifted and Black at the Lehman College Art Gallery and A Muffled Sound Underwater at Latchkey Gallery on the Lower East Side. The latter is curated by two artists, Alteronce Gumby and Tariku Shiferaw, and features work by both Gumby and Shiferaw, along with Dominique Duroseau, Torkwase Dyson, Tsedaye Makonnen, and Marvin Touré.


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Tariku Shiferaw, Simply Falling (Lyeoka), 2019-2020

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