National Portrait Gallery’s Black Out exhibition travels to Birmingham Museum of Art

September 28, 2019 - January 12, 2020

Camille’s interactive installation Precarious is on view at the Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama as part of a traveling group exhibition Black Out: Silhouettes Then and Now organized by the National Portrait Gallery, in Washington DC.

The exhibition catalog published by the Princeton University Press is available here.

From the Birmingham Museum of Art exhibition webpage:

Before the selfie, before the Polaroid, and even before the photograph, there was the silhouette, a profile portrait made from cut paper. Silhouettes were a hugely popular and accessible form of portraiture in the nineteenth century, offering almost instant images of everyday Americans—women, men, black, white, presidents, and laborers. Black Out: Silhouettes Then and Now explores this previously unstudied art form by investigating its deep historical roots and considering its forceful presence today.

Auguste Edouart’s images capture notable figures including John Quincy Adams (sixth president of the United States) and Lydia Maria Child, an anti-slavery and women’s rights activist. Other rarely-seen highlights are a double-silhouette portrait of Sylvia Drake and Charity Bryant, a same-sex couple from the early 1800s, and a life-size silhouette of Flora, a nineteen-year-old enslaved woman. These powerful images offers us glimpses into their lives.

Contemporary artists Kara Walker, Camille Utterback, and Kumi Yamashita use silhouettes to create works of art today. Kara Walker engages the silhouette’s associations with elegance and refinement to imagine violent episodes throughout history, Camille Utterback presents an interactive digital work that reacts to visitors’ shadows and movements, and Kumi Yamashita sculpts light and shadow with objects to create mixed-media profiles of people.

With both historical and contemporary explorations of the silhouette, Black Out reveals new pathways between our past and present, particularly with regard to how we can reassess notions of race, power, individualism, and our digital selves.