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Are We Wearing a Mask?

Black History Month started on Feb 1st, and you have time just until March 6th to visit D’Angelo Lovell Williams’ curated show at Higher Pictures Generation, (16 Main Street, Ground Floor, Brooklyn, New York 11201).

“When I present images about vulnerability and intimacy or race and sexuality I know they are not just about me”

– D’Angelo Lovell Williams

Installation views, courtesy the artists and Higher Pictures Generation, Copyright by Kylie Bryant, 2021

We wear a Mask is the last curatorial work by Lovell Williams: the exhibition’s news release is a nearly 14-minute video that opens with Williams, costumed in a dress made with an American flag pattern, reciting “We Wear the Mask,” by the African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), and lounging and frolicking nude in a verdant summer landscape. After the first images, the screen shows the self-presentations of the 10 artists who collaborated in this exhibition with their photographs.

We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—

This debt we pay to human guile;

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,

And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,

In counting all our tears and sighs?

Nay, let them only see us, while

We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries

To thee from tortured souls arise.

We sing, but oh the clay is vile

Beneath our feet, and long the mile;

But let the world dream otherwise,

We wear the mask!

- Paul Laurence Dunbar, "“We Wear the Mask.”" from The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar.

(New York: Dodd, Mead and Company).

D’Angelo Lovell Williams (b. 1992, Jackson, Mississippi) is a Black artist expanding narratives of Black and queer intimacy through photography. He earned their BFA in photography from Memphis College of Art in 2015 and an MFA in photography from Syracuse University in 2018. He lives and works in New York City.

“My images are not only about my black and gay experience from my perspective, they are about desire and the framing of black gay men.” – D’Angelo Lovell Williams

Installation views, courtesy the artists and Higher Pictures Generation, Copyright by Kylie Bryant, 2021

The exhibition, the result of a collaboration between photographers, similarly focuses on ideas of visibility and what it means to be a Black American today — and the video gives a face and voice to the artists.

Along the walls, works of different meaning and power follow one another: nostalgic or dreamy, dark and retouched, in color, black and white, overwritten polaroids, all the photographs in this exhibition touch for their truth and communication, for their evocative power and an undeclared, latent melancholy of times that have never been because "they are of the same material as dreams".

It’s a must-see.


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