The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse

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The Dirty South makes visible the roots of Southern hip hop culture and reveals how the aesthetic traditions of the African American South have shaped visual art and musical expression over the last 100 years.

Echoing from New York to Los Angeles in the 1980s, the musical genre of hip hop became, for many, the empowering language of the voiceless. In the mid-1990s, André 3000 of the Atlanta-based duo OutKast, proclaimed, “The South got something to say!” André’s clarion call shone a light into a centuries-old repository of rich Southern aesthetic traditions rooted in the fraught histories of this nation while centering the South as a vital contributor to the rich musical genre of hip hop. While the expression “Dirty South” is codified within the culture of Southern hip hop music, it encompasses a much broader understanding of the geography, history, and culture of the Black South. The Dirty South explores the traditions, aesthetic impulses, and exchanges between the visual and sonic arts over the last century. Featuring a multi-generational group of artists working across a wide range of media—including sculpture, painting, film, photography, and sound—The Dirty South presents more than 130 works and spans the entire Museum.


The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse is organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) and curated by Valerie Cassel Oliver, Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art (formerly Curator/Senior Curator at CAMH for 16 years). Its presentation at CAMH is coordinated by Patricia Restrepo, Assistant Curator.

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