Get our newsletters

New exhibition explores beauty, complexity of Black culture


The New Jersey State Museum in Trenton presents “Posing Beauty in African American Culture,” a touring exhibition opening Jan. 29.
The exhibition explores the contested ways in which African and African American beauty have been represented in historical and contemporary contexts. Throughout the Western history of art and image-making, the relationship between beauty and art has become increasingly complex within contemporary art and popular culture.
Presented in the museum’s main first floor gallery through May 22, the exhibition was organized by the Department of Photography & Imaging at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, and curated by Deborah Willis, PhD, university professor and chair of the department.
“Posing Beauty in African American Culture” challenges contemporary understandings of beauty by framing notions of aesthetics, race, class and gender within art, popular culture and politics.

The exhibition is divided into three thematic sections: “Constructing a Pose,” considers the interplay between the historical and the contemporary, between self-representation and imposed representation, and the relationship between subject and photographer; “Body and Image,” questions the ways in which contemporary understanding of beauty has been constructed and framed through the body; and “Modeling Beauty & Beauty Contests,” invites viewers to reflect upon the ambiguities of beauty, its impact on mass culture and individuals, and how the display of beauty affects the ways in which viewers see and interpret the world and themselves.
Artists in the exhibit include, among others, Carrie Mae Weems, Charles “Teenie” Harris, Sheila Pree Bright, Leonard Freed, Jamal Shabazz, Renee Cox, Edwin Rosskam, Hank Willis Thomas, Anthony Barboza, Bruce Davidson, Mickalene Thomas, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Gordon Parks and Wendel A. White (Galloway, N.J).
General admission is free, and donations to the NJ State Museum Foundation are accepted. All visitors over age 2 are required to wear face coverings. For information, visit