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VOX XV: What Makes That Black?
15th Annual Juried Exhibition, Curated by Michael Clemmons & Vashti DuBois
Opening Friday, July 5, 2019 | 6-10pm
Clockwise: Brandon Dean, Stephen Shaheen, Jessica O’Lear, Brandan Henry, Leon Wen Xu, Taj Poscé

Vox XV: What Makes That Black?

Vox Populi’s 15th Annual Juried Exhibition

Curated by Michael Clemmons and Vashti DuBois

Featuring Work By: Michael Anthony Brown, Brandon Dean, Erlin Geffrard, Brandan Henry, Rush Jackson, Moses Jeune, Tiffany D. Jones, Debbie Lerman, Kristine Mays, Kendra McGowan, Jessica O’Lear, Komikka Patton, Taj Poscé, Project Trans(m)it, Tad Sare, Saloni Shah, Stephen Shaheen, and Leon Wen Xu

Friday, July 5, 2019 – Sunday, August 3, 2019
Presented in Galleries 1-4 + The Black Box

About the Exhibition

Guest curated by Michael Clemmons and Vashti DuBois of The Colored Girls Museum (Philadelphia, PA), Vox XV: What Makes That Black? is Vox Populi’s 15th annual juried exhibition featuring over 40 artworks selected from over 200 applications to a nationwide open call. On view from Friday, July 5, 2019 – Sunday, August 4, 2019, the exhibition includes 18 artists and collectives working in painting, sculpture, photography, mixed-media assemblage, animation, video and performance.

Curatorial Statement

“Storytelling you know has a real function. Stories differ from advice in that once you get them, they become a fabric of your whole soul. That is why they heal you. “ – Alice Walker

Luana has written an excellent book What Makes that Black?: The African American Aesthetic in American Expressive Culture, which inspired the title of this show. Luana lifts up many ideas regarding the necessity, power and purpose of naming and claiming a black aesthetic and offers a complex multi-layered discussion; we recommend the book.
The artists in this show are not “all Black”, whatever that means; what they do share in this work are visual/performative interpretations of powerful narratives and personal truths. What Makes That Black?, however, is a response to conversations we’re always having, particularly in the realm of art, art making and ownership, about the words we use to establish relationships, to trace the origin, to offer proof or empirical evidence of what or who belongs and what or who does not belong. The words may change, but the underlying concerns are the same: What does that thing have to do with me? Why should I care? Whose story does that belong to?

As we moved from one gallery space to another at Vox Populi – imagining as best we could how works which have never met before, might greet each other, share the space, be altered in meaning and purpose by their proximity to a strange neighbor; we ask ourselves – as keepers of The Colored Girls Museum – the question we imagine some of our peers might ask us or ask themselves (after viewing this exhibit): why did you chose that work, put it in that place, how is all of this informed by your aesthetic, or in other words what makes that black?

There are, perhaps, different questions to ask.

And while, what makes that black? is not a question we asked ourselves when we were invited to curate this show…for certain…what makes that black is our blackness. 

“And I am not attempting to box-in the definition of Blackness or inanely apply my findings to all matters of our complex humanity. That would only diminish Blackness, defeat my purpose,” –  Luana

Artist List

About the Curators

Michael Clemmons, Curator/ Visual Artist, The Colored Girls Museum
In his art practice, Michael Clemmons uses a cultural palette creating mix-media paintings- referencing timeless landscapes, West African and personal iconography – ceramic sculpture and installations. Educated at the University of the Arts, Temple University and The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, his work is represented in collections internationally. Mr. Clemmons is currently the Acting Director of Temple University’s Center for Community Partnerships. With 30 years experience in community engagement and project development from inception through implementation he builds and coordinates strategic partnerships and facilitates programming while advancing the goals of community and mission of the University.

Vashti DuBois, Founder & Executive Director, The Colored Girls Museum
Vashti DuBois has held leadership positions at a number of organizations over her 30-year career in non-profit and arts administration, working primarily on issues impacting girls and women of color, including: Free Library of Philadelphia, Tree House Books, the Historic Church of the Advocate, Children’s Art Carnival in New York City, Haymarket People’s Fund in Boston, Congreso Girls Center, and The Leeway Foundation. DuBois is a graduate of Wesleyan University, and a NAMAC Fellow. She is currently working on a book about the making of The Colored Girls Museum.

About The Colored Girls Museum
Launched in 2015, The Colored Girls Museum (TCGM) “honors the stories, experiences, and history of Colored Girls of the African diaspora.” It is the first institution of its kind, offering visitors a multi-disciplinary experience of memoir, in all its variety, in a residential space. This museum initiates the “ordinary” object — submitted by the colored girl herself, as representative of an aspect of her story and personal history which she finds meaningful; her object embodies her experience and expression of being a Colored Girl. TCGM has been engineered to pop up in other cities and neighborhoods around the country — transforming ordinary spaces into Colored Girls Museum outposts, which collect, archive, and share the stories of indigenous colored girls. This start-up Museum enterprise has been written about in the Smithsonian Magazine, Essence, Associated Press, Philadelphia Inquirer, Metro U.K., and others.

More Info: thecoloredgirlsmuseum.com