Defying the Shadow
Defying the Shadow presents images by black artists and of black bodies 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 50 works—ranging from 19th-century photographs to contemporary prints—focus on the appearance of shadows in formal and metaphorical settings.
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.