'Dimensions of Black' exhibition sure to stir conversation

In a troubling time in our nation, where fissures continually crack along racial lines, from police shootings to institutional racism, it is ever important to nurture various points of view and promote meaningful dialogue. Such conversations are bound to take place at the upcoming art exhibition "Dimensions of Black" at the Museum of Contemporary Art, in collaboration with the African American Museum of Fine Arts.

In celebration of more than four decades of African American art and artists, the exhibition explores a range of artistic genres including abstraction, sculpture, photography and drawing. From works without direct racial context to those speaking to the realities of black identity, "Dimensions of Black" promises to captivate diverse audiences.

Opening Dec. 16, the show will include a variety of programs for patrons and community engagement.

PACIFIC recently spoke with curator Anthony Graham of MCASD and Gaidi Finnie, executive director of AAMFA for the inside scoop to the collaborative exhibition, and here's what the pair had to say about the exhibition.

PACIFIC: What inspired this collaboration and exhibition?

Gaidi Finnie: The inspiration for this exhibition is actually part of a larger vision of the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Arts, which is to eventually showcase the works of African American and African Contemporary artists together. It will highlight the influences each culture has had on one another culturally. 

Hugh Davies was very receptive to our vision and recommended that a collaboration utilizing pieces from MCASD's permanent collection would be a good starting place.

Anthony Graham: The San Diego African American Museum of Fine Arts has worked with several local organizations over the past few years, and this past year approached MCASD to collaborate on an exhibition. "Dimensions of Black" presents MCASD's permanent collection in a new way, one that is distinctive and specific to SDAAMFA's mission while resonating strongly with our own collection and exhibitions.

How does the exhibition confront racial issues?

Graham: "Dimensions of Black" highlights the diverse ways that African American contemporary artists have contributed to and influenced the contemporary art landscape. While many of the works in this exhibition directly address identity - race, gender, sexuality - in other pieces, such issues are not central to the work.

Finnie: This exhibit has not been curated with the intent to confront racial issues. It is more accurate to note that we have showcased several African American artists, some who have used art as a powerful tool to make a political or social statement about the African American experience in America. Unfortunately, in America 2016 that experience continues to center around race and racial inequalities.

In our highly polarized society, what impact do you hope this well timed exhibition has?

Graham: Like all of our exhibitions, "Dimensions of Black" is an invitation to have conversations. There is certainly a sense of urgency to address the various topics in this exhibition, but these topics are always relevant, and it is important that they are part of a larger, sustained conversation about identity and race in art.

Finnie: Visitors to this exhibit will see a variety of art mediums and subject matter all of which clearly illustrates that African American artists are not dominated by any one theme. Instead it is art that has evolved into something far beyond an imitation of life. 

SDAAMFA is of the opinion that good art is just that good art and those who truly appreciate art while appreciate the brilliance that is on display.

What's a must-see piece and why?

Graham: This exhibition is full of stand out, seminal works, many of which are best seen over time. A great example is Sam Gilliam's "Dance Me, Dance You 2," three colorful paintings that are suspended in the gallery, shifting and turning as you view them.

What activities/events do you have set up for the community to interact with this exhibition?

Graham: We have planned a series of programs to accompany this exhibition from the very beginning. In addition to the museum's ongoing programs, such as our Family ArtLabs and Curator's Perspective tour, we will also be hosting a Food Fest and a screening of the documentary, Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, in conjunction with MCASD's Teen Advisory Group.

"Dimensions of Black" opens Dec. The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is located at 1100 Kettner Blvd., downtown. 16. Visitors to Downtown at Sundown on Dec. 15 will be afforded a sneak peak of the exhibition. For more information, call (858) 454-3541 or go online to mcasd.org.

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