Defying the Shadow
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.
Curated by Anita N. Bateman, Ph.D.
Former Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow
Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs
RISD Museum is supported by a grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, through an appropriation by the Rhode Island General Assembly and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and with the generous partnership of the Rhode Island School of Design, its Board of Trustees, and Museum Governors. Additional support for Defying the Shadow provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.