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  • Nicole Garvin

Who are the Young, Gifted and Black?

Young, Gifted and Black is an exhibition at the Lehman College Art Gallery that brings together almost 50 artists from the Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family contemporary art collection.

Curated by Antwaun Sargent and Matt Wycoff, the exhibition aims to bring a visual to Nina Simone's and Weldon Irvine's song "To be young black and Gifted."

Richard Powell in Black Art and Culture in the 20th Century defines “black” as a “complexity that came to define these new African peoples...given the range of complexions and body types among African peoples, “black” (in spite of its stark, verbal fixity) has always signified more—visually and conceptually—than it has been allowed to represent officially.”* The exhibition does more than create a visual representation of a song, it acts as a survey of artists who identify as Black whose art is as nuanced as the complexity of the word that they identify with. The exhibition itself is impressive in scale and range.

The only supplemental wall text is "Perspectives on Portraiture." Which even in its lonely, cornered existence makes bold claims. From Neolithic masks, to the invention of photography, James Van Der Zee, to queer psychological cinemascapes and seemingly everything in-between. In essence the exhibition off the to left--if facing away from the entrance--is another exhibition, related to but almost too packed to disperse throughout. This other section is a powerhouse of black, queer, and gender exploration with the likes of Nayland Blake whose 4.3.15, colored pencil bunny on paper seems simple but encapsulates a meditation on the dualities that stem from biracial identities to queerness. David Hammons African American Flag which is small in size--a kin to a something you would buy in impulse on the street during a parade--still confronts what the American flag as a symbol of freedom in the United States means for a particular group in a society that is oppressed.

The other rooms are less dense but equally as rich. You have your heavy hitters like Glenn Ligon and Kara Walker. As well as the vivid, rich and velvety Blue Dancer by Tunji Adeniyi-Jones. If you are able to view the exhibition before it closes on May 2nd your views of Angie Jenning's Goldie, Chiffon Thomas’s A mother who had no mother, and Eric N. Mack’s Pain After Heat will not be hindered by live singers and equipment.

From Kara Walker to Alteronce Gumby. A visitor is guaranteed to find an artist name that they recognize.

-Nicole Garvin


Richard J. Powell, “The Dark Center,” in Black Art and Culture in the 20th Century (London: Thames and Hudson, 1998), 8.

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