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TMA presents new exhibition that addresses race, gender, identity issues Aug. 4

The PICTURE ID: Contemporary African American Works on Paper was scheduled to open back in March but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic

TOLEDO, Ohio — An exhibition that was scheduled to debut in March but was delayed due to the pandemic will finally be available for visitors on Tuesday at the Toledo Museum of Art.

The PICTURE ID: Contemporary African American Works on Paper, an exhibition that addresses race and gender issues, and how appearances may shape assumptions of identity and character, can be viewed in Gallery 4.

The exhibition features the works of nine contemporary African American artists that display a response to artistic developments and cultural debates that have been prevalent through the late 1980s and 1990s in the United States. 

Some of the topics include the rise of multicultural activism, concerns surrounding the AIDS crisis, conservative social and economic policies, rapid gentrification and increasing urban crime. 

“The artists manipulate texts, words and phrases related to race, combining them with photographic or invented imagery to examine the meaning and interpretation of individual identity. Through various visual strategies, they ask the viewer to consider identity through the overlapping perspectives of gender, race, ethnicity and sexuality to challenge the notion of selfhood as one fixed set of characteristics," said Robin Reisenfeld, TMA’s senior curator of works on paper. 

One of the exhibition's most popular pieces is Wigs by Lorna Simpson.

Wigs presents an array of wigs and hairpieces from thick braids and weaves to smooth blond locks. 

“Lorna Simpson’s work makes us stop and think how our hair reflects and shapes our identity and how we perceive others,” Reisenfeld said. “The panels of fragmented text that accompany many of the images allude to the hairpieces’ capability for personal transformation and/or concealment. The repetition of different wigs – of real or artificial hair – that one wears for adornment or disguise suggests that identity itself can be a costume which one assumes to adopt another persona.”

The other contributing artists are Glenn Ligon, Howardena Pindell, Adrian Piper, Martin Puryear, John Rozelle, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems and Fred Wilson 

Ligon's Untitled (Crowd/The Fire Next Time) is a piece that features an excerpt from American Novelist James Baldwin in addition to an image of the Million Man March. 

The TMA will host the exhibition until January 2021.

Admission is free.