“Defying the Shadow” presents images by Black artists and of Black figures that resist the consumptive impulses of looking. As anti-portraits or visages that challenge the impulse to be known, comprehended, categorized, or easily identified, these works oppose a historical narrative of dispossession and domination that continues to violate the humanity of Other-ed bodies. By examining how Black subjects operate in and against contemporary political systems—and their constant negotiation of surveillance and the risk of violence—this show considers the defiant body as not only a site of possibility, but also a challenge to authoritative systems of knowing, including the white-supremacist function of the traditional gaze. Beginning with Sojourner Truth’s abolitionist portraits stamped with the slogan “I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance,” these assembled works—ranging from 19th-century photographs to contemporary prints—focus on the appearance of shadows in formal and metaphorical settings.
Defying the Shadow
On view through December 18, 2021
Providence, Rhode Island
[Image: I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance, Sojourner Truth, 1864]