The desire to self-present is often a political one, a reaction against others’ feckless stereotypes. In “Black Pulp!,” curators William Villalongo and Mark Thomas Gibson, both artists, have assembled a remarkable collection of printed matter—much on loan from the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University—from the last one hundred years that foregrounds the Black experience in America. Historical printed media, including comic books, book jackets, magazines, and posters, are supplemented with fine art prints by contemporary artists such as Kerry James Marshall and Kara Walker, as well as younger peers like Derrick Adams and Firelei Báez.
The show draws a fluid line connecting Afrocentric movements of the twentieth century and today, elucidating a fruitful push and pull between subcultures and popular media. The Art Deco/Nubian design for Laura Wheeler Waring’s cover of The Crisis: A Record of the Darker Races, published by the NAACP in 1923, visually foreshadows Afro-Futurist material from mid-century, like the cover of Sun Ra’s 1958 LP The Nubians of Plutonia. Black Panther Party broadsides from the late 1960s set the stage for Luke Cage comic books produced by Marvel in the 1970s. The curators continue this rich tradition in design with a free take-home gallery guide and a catalogue.
Pictured: Ellen Gallagher: Abu Simbel, 2005, photogravure, watercolor, colored pencil, varnish, pomade, plasticine, blue fur, gold leaf, and crystals, 24½ by 35½ inches. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York.