The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse
On view through February 6, 2022
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
Recently called one of the best exhibitions of the year and a tour de force by the Los Angeles Times, “The Dirty South” makes visible the roots of Southern hip-hop culture and reveals how the aesthetic traditions of the African American South have shaped visual art and musical expression over the last 100 years.
Echoing from New York to Los Angeles in the 1980s, the musical genre of hip-hop became, for many, the empowering language of the voiceless. In the mid-1990s, André 3000 of the Atlanta-based duo OutKast, proclaimed, “The South got something to say!” André’s clarion call shone a light into a centuries-old repository of rich Southern aesthetic traditions rooted in the fraught histories of this nation while centering the South as a vital contributor to the rich musical genre of hip-hop. While the expression “Dirty South” is codified within the culture of Southern hip-hop music, it encompasses a much broader understanding of the geography, history, and culture of the Black South.
“The Dirty South” explores the traditions, aesthetic impulses, and exchanges between the visual and sonic arts over the last century. Featuring a multigenerational group of artists working across a wide range of media—including sculpture, painting, film, photography, and sound—”The Dirty South” presents more than 130 works and spans the entire Museum.
[Image: RaMell Ross, Caspera, 2020, detail. Large scale archival pigment print, 40 x 60 inches. Image and work courtesy the artist.]