This fall the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston presents Cinema Remixed & Reloaded: Black Women Artists and the Moving Image Since 1970, a groundbreaking exhibition chronicling the contributions that black women have made and continue to make to video art. Co-organized by Valerie Cassel Oliver, curator at the CAMH, and Dr. Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, director of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in Atlanta, this exhibition is the first to consider a collection of almost fifty works by black women artists who pioneered time-based media. The exhibition opens October 17, 2008 with a reception from 9:00 – 11:00 PM and is on view through January 4, 2009.
Cinema Remixed & Reloaded presents three decades of work by forty women artists from Australia, Cuba, Europe, Kenya, South Africa, and the United States. Their work represents an ongoing effort to examine individual experience, evoke familial and communal memories, and challenge societal conventions through the use of the moving image within cinematic and visual art. Experimental filmmakers and visual artists included in this survey are Ina Diane Archer, Elizabeth Axtman, Camille Billops, Carroll Parrott Blue, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Zöe Charlton, Ayoka Chenzira, Ogechi Chieke, Julie Dash, Zeinabu irene Davis, Stephanie Dinkins, Cheryl Dunye, Debra Edgerton, Shari Frilot, Colette Gaiter, Leah Gilliam, Maren Hassinger, Lauren Kelley, Bradley McCallum & Jacqueline Tarry, Barbara McCullough, Tracey Moffatt, Wangechi Mutu, Senga Negundi, Michelle Denise Parkerson, Jessica Ann Peavy, Howardena Pindell, Adrian Piper, Tracey Rose, Eve Sandler, Berni Searle, Xaviera Simmons, Lorna Simpson, Cauleen Smith, Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum, Jocelyn Taylor, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Yvonne Welbon, Paula Wilson, and Lauren Woods.
Since the 1960s, when the first portable video cameras were introduced to American consumers, video artists have appropriated the pop culture medium to defy traditional fine arts like painting and sculpture, as well as to mirror and critique society. Artists have used both film and video as single and multi-channel installations, as projections or moving images incorporated into sculptural objects, and for viewing on television and, more recently, on computer monitors. Sometimes humorous and socially engaging, other times confrontational, often thought-provoking, the work of these black women artists demonstrates the breadth of subject matter these artists have embodied and investigated over three decades, such as the subjugation and liberation of the black body, family, the male gaze, memory, loss, alienation, gender inequities, sexuality, racism, and the pursuit of power.
Included in the exhibition are works, such as: Bradley McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry’s emotionally charged self-portrait Cut (2006); and Kara Walker’s Testimony: Narrative of a Negress Burdened by Good Intentions (2004), which uses cut-paper silhouettes, drawing, painting, performance, and video to examine the antebellum South’s legacy of slavery. California-based Elizabeth Axtman mimics Hollywood’s classic protagonists to question historical perceptions about skin color and miscegenation in her powerful four-minute video American Classics (2005). Artists such as Jocelyn Taylor and Lauren Wood give a humorous twist on the black body as an object of desire while Carrie Mae Weems emancipates the black female figure from the human gaze in Italian Dreams (2006).
Also included are two Houston-based artists Carroll Parrott Blue and Lauren Kelley. Blue’s 2003 memoir about her relationship with her mother, Dawn at My Back: Memoir of a Texas Upbringing, An Interactive Cultural History, combines music, technology, prose, and visual imagery in a rich narrative that spans thirty-five years, beginning in Houston during segregation. Kelley’s video, Big Gurl (2006), is a series of short, stop-animation videos that explore such real-life situations as body image, women’s health, consumerism, and romantic relationships.
Once considered suspect, video is now—thirty years since its emergence—widely regarded as one of the most influential and pervasive genres of contemporary art. Cinema Remixed & Reloaded is an opportunity to consider the works of these female artists within the contexts of both art and history, and adds a very focused contribution to the current scholarship revisiting the emergence of feminism and the under-discussed history of women artists and their work.