The Black Index at Hunter College Art Galleries




Hunter College Art Galleries will open its doors to the traveling group exhibition The Black Index featuring the work of Dennis Delgado, Alicia Henry, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Titus Kaphar, Whitfield Lovell, and Lava Thomas. The artists included 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.

Alicia Henry. Analogous III, 2020. Acrylic, thread, yarn, dyed leather. Variable dimensions.University Art Gallery, UC Irvine © 2021. Photo by Paul Salveson.

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.

This exhibition is dedicated to David C. Driskell.

(Cover) Dennis Delgado. Black Panther, 2020. Tagged image format file, 7 5/8 x 7 5/8 inches. Courtesy of the artist.


In conjunction with the exhibition, the Hunter College Art Galleries with Hirmer Publishers have produced a full-color illustrated catalogue. Edited by Bridget R. Cooks and Sarah Watson, the publication includes a comprehensive curatorial essay by Cooks, with additional essays by CalvinJohn Smiley, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Sociology department at Hunter College, CUNY, as well as artist bios written by Re’al Christian, Hunter College M.A. Art History, and Ella Turenne, Visual Studies Ph.D. Candidate at UC Irvine. The publication is available through University of Chicago Press.

The Black Index tour is organized by Hunter College Art Galleries 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.

Curated by Bridget R. Cooks, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of African American Studies and the Department of Art History, University of California, Irvine. Presentation at the Hunter College Art Galleries curated in collaboration with Sarah Watson and Re’al Christian.

The Black Index will be one view from February 1 to April 3, 2022 at Hunter College Art Galleries, Bertha and Karl Leubsdorf Gallery, 132 East 68th Street, NYC.