edited by: Małgorzata Rutkiewicz
graphic design: Marianka Dobkowska, Krzysztof Bielecki
publisher: Zachęta - Narodowa Galeria Sztuki
One of the characteristic phenomena in art in the last three decades of the past century was an unprecedented broadening of the scope of the notion of "art". Opposing modernism, with its elitist and hierarchic nature, conceptualism called for challenging the hierarchies, destroying the center, and presenting those that had so far remained invisible. The floor was given to the others: Asians, Africans, women, gays, proving in the process that it was not minorities but the majority of the world's inhabitants that had been silent. How profound and complex a process this had been can be found out by simply trying to name and enumerate the various "others", whereby we encounter problems with small or capital letters, politically correct or incorrect terms, categorization blunders, and a fear of label-sticking. Discovering the other has become a great adventure of the contemporary world, made easier by the achievements of communication and media technology and the emergence of the common language of art aimed at individual expression. The place of presentation and confrontation are international artistic events organized in various places across the globe, on various continents, as well as monographic exhibitions, such as the black alphabet.
We are showing a phenomenon little known in Europe: of the artists featured in the exhibition, only a few - e.g. Fred Wilson or Kara Walker - will be known to the audience. Compared with black music or literature, the latter honored with a Nobel Prize for Toni Morrison, African American art remains poorly recognized, making the curator's proposition a pioneering adventure. In the US, in turn, several important exhibitions of black art have taken place, and there has been a lot of interesting literature on the subject. some of the theses of which are discussed in the essays contained in the catalogue of this exhibition. black alphabet explores a number of issues connected with the problem of African American self-identification and self-definition, colonial references, sense of place in the American society, urban issues, youth subcultures, or the hip hop culture. The black-and-white image of the American society is becoming more complex and sharper, enriched with the perceptions of those Americans who had long been deprived of their own voice.
artists: Laylah Ali, Edgar Arceneaux, John Bankston, Sanford Biggers, Mark Bradford, Michael Paul Britto, Nick Cave, Zoe Charlton, Leonardo Drew, Ellen Gallagher, David Hammons, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Leslie Hewitt, Shaun El C. Leonardo, Glenn Ligon, Kalup Linzy, Rdney McMillian, Lester Julian Merriweather, Wardell Milan, Kori Newkirk, Demetrius Oliver, Kambui Olujimi, Jefferson Pinder, Robert Pruitt, Lorna Simpson, Xaviera Simmons, Susan Smith-Pinelo, Jeff Sonhouse, Hank Willis Thomas, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Kehinde Wiley, Fred Wilson, Paula Wilson, Jannifer Zackin