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Black Art through the Lens: “Soul of a Nation” Virtual Panel Discussion July 20, 2020


Soul of a Nation | installation view (photography 1)

Installation view of Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power.

Installation view of Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power.

Mark your calendar and join us via Zoom on Saturday, July 25, at 3 p.m. “Black Art through the Lens” is the second of five livestream panel discussions accompanying Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power. Three artists whose work is featured in the exhibition—Dawoud Bey, Adger Cowans, and Ming Smith—talk about how photographers have sought to represent Black communities in honest, multifaceted ways to counter stereotyped representations. The discussion is moderated by New York University professor Deborah Willis.

Meet the Panel

Dawoud Bey began his career as an artist in 1975 with Harlem, U.S.A. This series of photographs was exhibited at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979. Bey’s writing appears in publications including David Hammons: Been There and Back; High Times, Hard Times: New York Painting, 1967–1975; and The Van Der Zee Studio.

Adger Cowans is a photographer and Abstract Expressionist painter whose predominantly black-and-white photography is featured in Personal Vision: Photographs. This monograph documents his evolution from being a Navy photographer, to an apprentice for Gordon Parks, to a portrait photographer with clients including Jane Fonda, Katharine Hepburn, Mick Jagger, and Al Pacino.

Ming Smith is known for her informal portraits of black cultural figures, such as Alvin Ailey, Grace Jones, and Nina Simone. Smith’s photography is held in the collections of institutions including New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and Whitney Museum of American Art; and the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum in Washington DC.

Deborah Willis, a professor at New York University, is an artist, curator, writer, photographer, and one of the nation’s leading historians on African American photography. She is the author of Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present and Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840 to the Present, among other publications.

► Learn more in this Q&A with Deborah Willis.

Join the virtual discussion on Saturday, July 25, at 3 p.m. Before or after, experience Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power at the MFAH, the final venue for the exhibition’s three-year tour. Plan ahead for your visit.

This virtual lecture series receives generous funding from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.