International Print Center New York (IPCNY) presents Black Pulp!, an exhibition that examines evolving perspectives of Black identity in American culture and history from 1912 to 2016 through rare historical printed media shown in dialogue with contemporary works of art. The exhibition highlights works by artists, graphic designers, writers, and publishers in formats ranging from little known comic books to covers for historic books and magazines, to etchings, digital prints, drawings, and media-based works by some of today’s leading artists. The exhibition is organized by artists William Villalongo and Mark Thomas Gibson.
Black Pulp! showcases the unique power of pulp and printed matter to contest dominant cultural narratives. Co-curator Villalongo states, “The pulp attitude is to take the tragic and painful points of history, from Jim Crow to World War II, and challenge them through biting humor, satire, and wit.” Co-curator Gibson continues, “Black Pulp! highlights individuals who have redefined our entire world, while reshaping our concept of Black identity.”
The exhibition features contemporary works by an intergenerational selection of twenty-one artists from the Black Diaspora. Highlights include Kerry James Marshall’s Dailies from Rythm Mastr (2010), Kara Walker’s Alabama Loyalists Greeting the Federal Gun-Boats from Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated) (2005), and Renee Cox’s Chillin with Liberty (1998). Other contemporary artists on view are Derrick Adams, Laylah Ali, Firelei Báez, Nayland Blake, Robert Colescott, William Downs, Ellen Gallagher, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Lucia Hierro, Yashua Klos, Wangechi Mutu, Lamar Peterson, Pope.L, Kenny Rivero, Alexandria Smith, Felandus Thames, Hank Willis Thomas, and Fred Wilson.
Black Pulp! situates these contemporary works in the context of rare historical books, comics, newspapers, and related ephemera created by both Black and non-Black artists committed to foregrounding and empowering African-American experience. Highlights include Harlem Renaissance luminary Alain LeRoy Locke’s The New Negro (1925), Langston Hughes’ poem The Weary Blues (1926), and Jackie Ormes’ comic strip Torchy in Heartbeats (1953). Some works, like Emory Douglas’ illustrations for The Black Panther Party Newspaper (1968–69), served as tools for mass communication and mobilization in addition to their role as fine art. Others, like Wallace Thurman’s, quarterly Fire!!: Devoted to the Younger Negro Artists (1926), introduced discussions of class and sexuality not published in other Black periodicals. Lobo and All Negro Comics feature the first ever Black superhero and first all Black published/written comic book. Other historical artists and writers on view are Gwendolyn Bennett, E. Simms Campbell, Miguel Covarrubias, Charles Cullen, Countee Cullen, Sadie Iola Daniel, Aaron Douglas, W.E.B. Dubois, George J. Evans, Jr., Elton C. Fax, Billy Graham, Oliver (Ollie) W. Harrington, George Herriman, Alvin Hollingsworth, Zora Neal Hurston, Charles S. Johnson, James Weldon Johnson, Loïs Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, Gertrude McBrown, Dwayne McDuffie, Owen Middleton, Richard Bruce Nugent, Laura Wheeler Waring, Charles White, and Carter G. Woodson.
“IPCNY is proud to bring this powerful exhibition to New York and to explore the myriad, creative roles that visual culture and art, especially printed art, has played historically—and continues to play today—to transform African-American narratives in America,” says Judy Hecker, Director of IPCNY. Debuting in January 2016 at Yale School of Art’s 32 Edgewood Gallery, New Haven, Black Pulp! is the first exhibition from 32 Edgewood Gallery to travel. The New York presentation introduces numerous contemporary prints specific to the IPCNY venue, including works by Firelei Báez, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Yashua Klos, Wangechi Mutu, Kenny Rivero, Kara Walker, and Fred Wilson, and as well as never before exhibited drawings by Laylah Ali. The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue, extensive didactics, and free public programming.