If the ability to be self-critical is a marker of a culture’s strength and maturity, then the artists presented in the exhibition “Disinhibition” blow a fresh breath of confidence into the conversation around contemporary African-American art. Curated by HPAC’s Blake Bradford, the exhibition brings together the work of emerging and one well-established artist who use provocative humor to illuminate uncomfortable truths. The attitude can be summarized as “political correctness and solidarity be damned! Here is the truth!” Heavy on irony and anger, many of the works teem with frustrated despair with both white racism and the less savory aspects of black culture. The predominant strategy is illustration by the use of telling juxtapositions. Tamasha Williamson’s drawing series “It Is in’t It? The African-American Vernacular and the King’s English: Validation v. Degradation (Articulate)” collages loaded words and phrases such as “bling” with loaded imagery such as slave shackles and bullets. David Leggett’s untitled installation of paintings, found images and writings map a bawdy sensibility as if Robert Crumb and Mike Kelley mated and produced a bastard African American child. The exhibition’s tongue-in-cheek, one-liner sensibility is thankfully thrown off kilter by William Pope L.’s collection of poetic pen and marker drawings. Phrases such as “Green people are Teal,” doodles that point to clouds and other phrases such as “the surface of the moon is the wrong color” describe a literally off-color space outside of black and white and situate the exhibition within a larger discussion about race and representation. (Sze Lin Pang)
Through June 22 at Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell.