The Black Index
May 1-August 14, 2021
Lava Thomas, Mugshot Portraits: Women of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Alberta J. James, 2018, Graphite and Conté pencil on paper, 47 x 33 ¼ inches, Collection of Doree Friedman
The Palo Alto Art Center is pleased to present The Black Index, a group exhibition featuring the work of Dennis Delgado, Alicia Henry, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Titus Kaphar, Whitfield Lovell, and Lava Thomas.
The artists featured in The Black Index build upon the tradition of Black self representation as an antidote to colonialist images. Using drawing, performance, printmaking, sculpture, and digital technology to transform the recorded image, these artists question our reliance on photography as a privileged source for documentary objectivity and understanding. Their works offer an alternative practice—a Black index—that still serves as a finding aid for information about Black subjects, but also challenges viewers’ desire for classification.
The works in The Black Index make viewers aware of their own expectations of Black figuration by interrupting traditional epistemologies of portraiture through unexpected and unconventional depictions. These works image the Black body through a conceptual lens that acknowledges the legacy of Black containment that is always present in viewing strategies. The approaches used by Delgado, Henry, Hinkle, Kaphar, Lovell, and Thomas suggest understandings of Blackness and the racial terms of our neo-liberal condition that counter legal and popular interpretations and, in turn, offer a paradigmatic shift within Black visual culture.
The Black Index is curated by Bridget R. Cooks, Associate Professor, Department of African American Studies and the Department of Art History, University of California, Irvine. Exhibition and tour organized by Sarah Watson, Chief Curator, Hunter College Art Galleries, New York in collaboration with the University Art Galleries at UC Irvine, Palo Alto Art Center, and Art Galleries at Black Studies, University of Texas at Austin.
Lead support for The Black Index is provided by The Ford Foundation with additional support by UCI Confronting Extremism Program, Getty Research Institute, Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte, Carol and Arthur Goldberg, Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, Leubsdorf Fund at Hunter College, Joan Lazarus Fellowship program at Hunter College, Pamela and David Hornik, Loren and Mike Gordon, University of California Office of the President Multi-campus Research Programs and Initiative Funding, University of California Humanities Research Institute, Applied Materials Foundation, Illuminations: The Chancellor’s Arts and Culture Initiative, UCI Humanities Center, Department of African American Studies, Department of Art History, The Reparations Project, and the UC Irvine Black Alumni Chapter. This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit calhum.org.
ASSOCIATED FREE VIRTUAL PROGRAMS:
- Friday, April 30, 2021--6:15 p.m.--Friday Night at the Art Center Celebrate the premiere of The Black Index at the Palo Alto Art Center with a virtual walkthrough by exhibition curator Bridget R. Cooks, a special reading of The Black Index essay by actor and theatre professor Aldo Billingslea, a redaction poetry activity with playwright Leelee Jackson, and a concluding presentation by Palo Alto author Julie Lythcott-Haims. See the recording.
Friday, June 4, 2021--5 p.m.--Conversation with Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle and Lava Thomas Join us for a special conversation with the two Bay Area artists included in The Black Index. Exhibition curator Bridget R. Cooks will lead a conversation between artists Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle and Lava Thomas about their work, The Black Index exhibition, and the role of artistic representation in acknowledging, honoring, and celebrating Black women. Watch the conversation here.
Fridays, June 11, July 9, and August 13 at 5:00 p.m.--Black American Art History: People, Places, and Things In these free virtual Friday evening presentations, The Black Index exhibition curator Bridget R. Cooks will offer a thematic overview of art by Black American artists from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries. Discover new favorite artists, styles, and stories in these engaging sessions. Register for the session here.
Friday, June 18, noon--The Black Index Publication Launch Join the Palo Alto Art Center and Hunter College Art Galleries for a virtual book launch celebrating The Black Index, co-published by the Hunter College Art Galleries and Hirmer Verlag. This free event will feature a conversation with the publication editors, Bridget R. Cooks, curator of The Black Index and Sarah Watson, Chief Curator of the Hunter College Art Galleries with appearances by catalogue contributors Re'al Christian, CalvinJohn Smiley, Vivan Smig, and Ella Turenne. A discussion will follow focused on the Redaction font commissioned by Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts and featured in The Black Index with the designers who created it: Forest Young, Global Principal and Head of Design at Wolff Olins and Jeremy Mickel, Type Designer and owner of MCKL; moderated by Stephen Coles, Associate Curator at Letterform Archive in San Francisco. Watch the book launch event here.
The publication is available through Hirmer Verlag and University of Chicago Press:
The Black Index publication is made possible by the support of the Ford Foundation, Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte, and the Leubsdorf Fund at Hunter College.
- Friday, July 16, noon--Black Creativity and Mentorship: A Conversation Between Diana Pumpelly Bates and Titus Kaphar
Join acclaimed San Jose artist Diana Pumpelly Bates and internationally recognized artist Titus Kaphar for a conversation about Black creativity, artistic inspiration, and the importance of mentorship. This conversation will be moderated by The Black Index exhibition curator Bridget R. Cooks. Co-sponsored by the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) in San Francisco. Register for the conversation here.
Peninsula Photo Contest Exhibition
June 12-August 14, 2021
From a record 995 photo submissions, the 2021 Peninsula Photo Contest is proud to present 12 winners and 14 honorable mentions submitted by locals from the 6-5-0 area code. Their exceptional work will be in the Six Fifty and Palo Alto Weekly on June 11 and on display at the Palo Alto Art Center from June 12 to Aug 14.
Hundreds of locals submitted nearly 1,000 photos for this year's Peninsula Photo Contest. You can see the captivating, thought-provoking winners in the Palo Alto Weekly, on TheSixFifty.com and at the Palo Alto Art Center starting June 12!
This year, 995 photos spanning six categories set a record for the largest turnout in Peninsula Photo Contest history. Congratulations to the winners and honorable mentions!
Tyler Wong, Curled Up, Palo Alto, CA, 2020
The Butterfly Effect: Migration is Beautiful
Exhibition Dates: March 6-June 8, 2021
Butterfly Effect: Migration is Beautiful is a community project initiated in 2017 by Lillian Ellis and Kaia Marbin, two youth activists in the Bay Area, who wanted to create a visual representation of the increasing number of migrant children currently in detention along the US border. To promote awareness and in hopes of preventing further child detention, they chose the butterfly as a symbol to make a statement that, like the Monarchs that migrate between California and Mexico every year, migration is beautiful. In the last three years they have led the creation of more than 50,000 butterflies with a goal of creating a total of 76,020, the number of children who were detained at the border. Butterflies are being created and displayed in public institutions like libraries, schools, and city halls across the US.
Where the Heart is: Contemporary Art by Immigrant Artists
Exhibition Dates: March 6-April 3, 2021
“I am from there. I am from here. I am not there and I am not here. I have two names, which meet and part, and I have two languages. I forget which of them I dream in.”
Zina Al-Shukri, Living Her Best Life, 2018, Gouache on paper, 30 x 22 in., Courtesy of the artist and Patricia Sweetow Gallery
There are more foreign-born residents in Santa Clara County than in any other county in California, about 38% of the total population. In a state that has more immigrants than any other and a country than has a larger immigrant population than any other in the world, this is a truly meaningful statistic and one we should not ignore.
The artists in this exhibition inspect their identities and heal divisions using thoughtful encounters with strangers and an empowered gaze. With great confidence, each has refused to conform. With improvisation and adaptation of both media and spirit, they give representation to those communities who are often unheard. These artists push beyond counterproductive categorizations and fearlessly enter a world of hybridization.
Looking into the faces in the portraits exhibited here, it is easy to feel connected by a common humanity and also appreciate the significance of history and ancestry. A sensitivity to both is the grace on offer, one we would all do well to welcome home.
Please see a link to a flickr album of images from the show. And installation images.
Associated Public Programs:
Where the Heart Is Artist Lectures: Link to past Jiha Moon talk
Where the Heart is Artist Talks: Maria Paz—Link to past Maria Paz session
Where the Heart is Artist Talks: Yulia Pinkusevich—Link to past Yulia Pinkusevich session
Where the Heart Is Artist Talks: Lien Truong—Link to past Lien Truong session
Where the Heart Is: Contemporary Art by Immigrant Artists is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.
The exhibition is also made possible through the generous contributions of Alliance members Brigid Barton, Pat Bashaw, Kenneth Bird, Peggy and Yogen Dalal, Anne Dauer, Judy David and Ric Ferras, Sue and John Diekman, Jeannie Duisenberg and Rich Hlava, Mary J Elmore, Angela and David Filo, Sally Glaser and David Bower, Loren and Mike Gordon, Pamela and David Hornik, Amy and Glen Kacher, Carol Kenyon, Iris and Hal Korol, Beverly and Peter Lipman, Patty McGuigan, Marcia Pugsley and Kent Mather, Bill Reller and Kris Klint, Susan Rosenberg, and Jan Schachter.
Sanctuary City Print Project Residency
Exhibition Dates: January - April 3, 2021
Location: Art Center facade, Embarcadero Road, Glass Gallery
The Palo Alto Art Center is proud to present an installation and exhibition of the Sanctuary City Print Project. Through interactive installations, public projections, billboards, mobile printshop projects and exhibitions, the Project hopes to educate and engage participants and institutions on the topics of sanctuary cities and immigration.
The Palo Alto Art Center project will consist of three installations along Embarcadero Road, two banners on the Embarcadero overpass and an exhibition that will exist virtually until state and county health guidelines allow access to the public. Virtual programs will engage the public until public programs can take place in-person. This project is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Where the Heart Is: Contemporary Art by Immigrant Artists at the Palo Alto Art Center
This project is funded in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency.
All images ©The Estate of Susan O’Malley
Community Advice Revisited
Exhibition Dates: October 1, 2020-January 2021
Location: Embarcadero Road alongside the Palo Alto Art Center
The Palo Alto Art Center, the Palo Alto Public Art Program and the Estate of artist Susan O’Malley have joined forces to present Susan O’Malley’s Community Advice Project, featuring a series of three colorful, radically positive, oversized posters outside the Art Center along Embarcadero Road. The large artworks will be installed beginning October 1, 2020.
The project was originally commissioned by the Palo Alto Art Center for the Community Creates exhibition in 2012. This revisitation of the project will feature three specific Community Advice posters, along with a reprinting of select posters for community engagement projects. Community Advice showcases Susan O’Malley’s timeless work in a current context of social unrest, disconnection, and community fragmentation.
“We feel strongly that the community needs this project more than ever,” says Art Center Director Karen Kienzle. “The positive, uplifting messages in these works remind us of our very best selves and encourage empathy, kindness, optimism, and love.”
City of Palo Alto Public Art Program Director Elise DeMarzo adds, “The power of public art to stimulate discussion and bring communities together at this difficult time cannot be underestimated. We hope that viewers will connect with O’Malley’s uplifting work and ask themselves what advice they might give to others and why.”
Susan O’Malley was commissioned to create Community Advice in 2012 in conjunction with the Palo Alto Art Center’s grand reopening exhibition Community Creates. As part of the project, O’Malley interviewed around 100 people in Palo Alto asking, “What advice would you give your 8-year-old self? What advice would you give your 80-year-old self?” Using the words of those she met, O’Malley designed ten different letterpress posters. Sometimes the text was used verbatim from the interview; other times she conflated several people’s advice into one. In addition to hanging in the gallery, the posters were installed on electrical poles along Embarcadero Road.
Susan O’Malley previously remarked, “I wanted to create this project because I think it’s easy to forget how wise we can be. We resist our internal wisdom because of fear, fatigue, inconvenience, or any number of reasons. Also, I like to hear other people’s advice. It reminds me that we are different versions of each other trying to make our way through this life. And sometimes other people’s words magically express exactly what I’m thinking, but can’t seem to pull together. Here in the Silicon Valley, I think this is particularly true as we hurl ourselves into fast-paced lives. We feel detached from one another and even to ourselves.”
O’Malley also shared, “While the posters range from earnest declarations to funny observations, I think there is a deepness of experience present in these simple phrases. My hope is that these community-authored public service announcements will reflect back–even if momentarily–our inner brilliance and perhaps allow a brief space to gently listen to our own advice.”
A new edition of the posters created for the Community Advice project by Horwinksi Printing Company in Oakland will be distributed to senior communities and to schools participating in our Project Look school tour program.
Susan O’Malley’s Community Advice is a presentation of the Estate of Susan O’Malley, the Palo Alto Art Center, and the Palo Alto Public Art Program. The project is generously supported by the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation, the Palo Alto Public Art Program, and Pamela and David Hornik.
Holding it Together
Exhibition Dates: November 3, November 14-2020
Holding it Together playfully examines the state of parenting during a pandemic, when work and life bleed into each other and projects remain incomplete, fractured by constant interruptions. Life stressors loom large while sweet uplifting moments spring up unexpectedly. From this crucible of home life, the ten Bay Area artists in this exhibit celebrate the chaotic and half-finished, the tender and the heartbreaking, and ask the question of what it is to be human in 2020, raising other humans. Ranging across several forms and mediums, including: video, sculpture, painting, drawing, installation, and community-generated projects, this exhibit invites you to see, feel, and think about how we’ve all been holding it together during a pandemic.
The ten artists in this exhibition were all part of a special artist-parent residency program, Being Human, created at the Art Center in conjunction with our Care and Feeding: The Art of Parenthood exhibition in 2018.
Vanessa Woods, Each One of Us Was Fastened to the Other, 49 Panel unique collage from original photographs, 44 x 44 in., 2020, Courtesy of the artist and Jack Fischer Gallery.
Karen Leslie Ficke
Ashley Lauren Saks
We were sorry to prematurely close our Holding it Together exhibition due to the Art Center’s closure. We encourage you to experience the show online, through our flickr album.
The two video works in the exhibition are also available online:
Ashley Lauren Saks
"We're playing dinosaurs", 1993/2020
See Ashley Lauren Saks video
My Mother’s Titanium Hip, 2020
See Jill Miller's video
Peninsula Photo Contest
Exhibition Dates: September 12 to December 12 (these dates may change if we are unable to open the gallery at this time)
Location: Palo Alto Art Center Glass Gallery
Sponsored by the Palo Alto Weekly and The Six Fifty
Check out all the winning images.
Read the Palo Alto Weekly article on the exhibition.
Pictured: (Youth) Moments Winner: Alison Soong, “Before the Rain”2019, San Francisco
Rooted: Trees in Contemporary Art
Exhibition Dates: January 25–August 23, 2020
Perhaps more than any other elements of the landscape, trees represent nature. Their greenery breaks up the hardscape of our suburban or urban environments, reminding us of the natural world. Trees remain the largest living organisms on earth. They also serve as relics of a prehistoric world, with some trees in California dating to more than 2,500 years ago. For these reasons and more, trees have continued to inspire artists, generating artwork that encourages us to consider the power of trees in our lives and communities.
Our City is named for a tree—El Palo Alto—a 110-foot-tall, 1,100 year old Coastal Redwood. In the 1890s, early tree advocates in our community planted our initial tree canopy. At that time, members of the Palo Alto Women’s Club transported milk cans filled with water in horse-drawn buggies to irrigate these early trees. Today, the City of Palo Alto grows and maintains approximately 36,000 city-owned urban trees. These trees remain a vital part of the Palo Alto landscape.
Trees provide a variety of benefits to people and our larger ecosystem. They trap dust and air pollution, shading harmful solar radiation. Trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, reducing the overall concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and slowing climate change. They are natural air conditioners, reducing summer temperatures. Trees help people live longer, healthier, and ultimately happier lives averting an estimated $6.8B in health care costs. Research indicates that exposure to trees reduces blood pressure, slowing heart rates and reducing stress.
The Palo Alto Art Center has its own collection of unique and wondrous trees on our property. After seeing the show, we encourage you to pick up a tree map and explore the trees around you.