Artspace Exhibit Explores Blackness, Otherness

Screen shot of Kara Crombie's "Julian's Balls." Image courtesy of Ms. Robinson

Screen shot of Kara Crombie’s “Julian’s Balls.” Image courtesy of Ms. Robinson

On Saturday, Artspace will open an exhibit that explores blackness and, by extension, otherness.

’Toonskin, a show curated by Kenya Robinson, who’ll graduate this month from the Yale School of Art, was originally inspired by her interest in sequential art.

“Many of the images that we see that are iconic … are based on minstrel characters,” Robinson said.

Growing up in Florida, Robinson saw her fill of Mickey Mouse, whom she described as “a minstrel character” whose anthropomorphized rodent form “connects to trickster folklore.”

Through her exploration of its use in comics and early animation, it became clear to Robinson that black was often the visual equivalent of a “catchall phrase for ‘otherness.'”

She’s also thought a great deal about the fact that the ink used in early sequential art was black and that it’s the color that physically separated still images.

As described on the Artspace website, ’Toonskin features “artists who reinterpret, recreate, and redefine Blackness — and otherness more generally — within an animated context. … ’Toonskin will not examine Blackness solely as an expression of identity; works included will also consider the physical nature of ‘black’ and blackness as a formal choice.”

In addition to the exhibit itself, Artspace will host talks by graphic novelist Mat Johnson. And Robinson hopes to schedule more events to “animate the show,” which will be on view through June 29. An opening reception for ’Toonskin is scheduled for Saturday, May 11, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Learn more about the exhibit at the Artspace website. And learn more about Kenya Robinson at her website Welcome to Walmart.

David Brensilver

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