Deborah Roberts features in 'The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse'
‘The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse’ investigates the visual and musical parallels that have shaped the contemporary landscape in the southern United States, with a focus on early 20th-century Black culture. Curated by Valerie Cassel Oliver, the exhibition explores landscape, religion, and the Black body, featuring multiple generations of artists working in a variety of genres. Visual expression, assemblage, collage, appropriation, and sonic transference are explored as deeply connected to music tradition, looking to contemporary southern hip-hop as a portal into the roots and aesthetic legacies that have long been acknowledged as ‘Southern’ in culture, philosophical thought, and expression.
Beginning in the 1920s with jazz and blues, the exhibition interweaves parallels of visual and sonic culture and highlights each movement with the work of contemporary artists, creating a bridge between what has long been divided between ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultures. Commercial videos and personal effects of some of the music industry’s most iconic artists are featured, from Bo Diddley to Cee Lo Green. Visual artists featured include Thornton Dial, Allison Janae Hamilton, Arthur Jafa, Jason Moran, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Deborah Roberts, Kara Walker and William Edmondson.
Cassel Oliver is also the editor of the accompanying publication, which will function as an essential reader on Black material and sonic culture and demonstrate its impact on contemporary art from the 1950s to the present. Featuring an anthology of critical essays by scholars such as Fred Moten, Anthony Pinn, Regina Bradley, Rhea Combs, and Guthrie Ramsey, the illustrated catalogue will document works in the exhibition as well as artists’ biographies and a chronology of iconic moments that have shaped the Black presence in the South.
VMFA has also commissioned an LP by Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky aka That Subliminal Kid for the exhibition.