Remembering the exhibition Two Centuries of Black American Art, guest curated by David Driskell at LACMA 45 years ago, this exhibition reframes portraiture to centre Black American subjects, sitters, and spaces.
Spanning over two centuries from c. 1800 to the present day, this selection of approximately 150 works draws primarily from LACMA's permanent collection and highlights emancipation and early studio photography: scenes from the Harlem Renaissance, portraits from the Civil Rights and Black Power eras, and multiculturalism of the 1990s. Isaac Julien is part of the exhibition with the photographs Serenade, from series Lessons of the Hour, 2019, and Last Angel of History, from Looking for Langston, 1989.
Black American Portraits chronicles the ways in which Black Americans have used portraiture to envision themselves in their own eyes. Countering a visual culture that often demonizes Blackness and fetishises the spectacle of Black pain, these images centre love, abundance, family, community, and exuberance.
Image: Isaac Julien, Serenade (Lessons of the Hour), 2019
© Isaac Julien