Mario Moore, A Student’s Dream, oil on canvas, 80 x 68 inches, 2017. Courtesy of the artist.
Skilled Labor: Black Realism in Detroit focuses on a local community of artists that have developed expert skills in drawing and painting, and, through deft hands, explore the representation of the Black body in both personal and cultural contexts. Rejecting the monolithic nature under which the Black body is frequently conceived and popularly imagined, Skilled Labor illustrates the range, depth, nuance, and variety of Black life through each artist’s unique approach to figuration. The exhibition features a spectrum of lived experiences—joy, intimacy, reverie, danger, tension—through this artistic lens. Collectively, these artists are undertaking the laborious task of art historical and cultural rethinking through acts of representation.
“Skilled labor” refers to highly trained, experienced individuals who complete complex mental or physical tasks with expertise. The term poetically speaks to these Detroit artists that perform a durational and technically proficient approach to artmaking. Skilled labor is also a rigorous intellectual process that these artists materialize through technical prowess. They are a result of generations of skilled Black labor workers, who bestowed upon the city a legacy of extraordinary innovation. The exhibition evinces the unique sense of place, community, and networks of support found in Detroit.
This landmark exhibition will feature 20 contemporary artists who have worked in Detroit over the last decade and demonstrate this exceptional skill.
These artists include Christopher Batten, Taurus Burns, Cydney Camp, Ijania Cortez, Cailyn Dawson, Bakpak Durden, Conrad Egyir, Jonathan Harris, Sydney G. James, Gregory Johnson, Richard Lewis, Hubert Massey, Mario Moore, Sabrina Nelson, Patrick Quarm, Joshua Rainer, Jamea Richmond-Edwards, Senghor Reid, Rashaun Rucker, and Tylonn J. Sawyer.
The exhibition is co-curated with Detroit artist Mario Moore, whose internationally acclaimed work exemplifies this expertise.
Skilled Labor: Black Realism in Detroit is organized by Cranbrook Art Museum and curated by artist Mario Moore and Laura Mott, Chief Curator, Cranbrook Art Museum, with assistance from Andrew Ruys de Perez, the Jeanne and Ralph Graham Curatorial Fellow. The exhibition is generously supported by the Gilbert Family Foundation, the Michigan Arts and Culture Council, the George Francoeur Art Museum Exhibition Fund, the David Klein and Kate Ostrove Exhibition Fund, Samara (Johnson) Furlong & Mark Furlong, Karen & Drew Bacon, Ethan & Gretchen Davidson, Linda & Rod Gillum, and ArtMembers of Cranbrook Art Museumers of Cranbrook Art Museum.
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