A Black Gaze

A Black Gaze

Artists Changing How We See

By Tina M. Campt

Examining the work of contemporary Black artists who are dismantling the white gaze and demanding that we see—and see Blackness in particular—anew.

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Summary

Examining the work of contemporary Black artists who are dismantling the white gaze and demanding that we see—and see Blackness in particular—anew.

In A Black Gaze, Tina Campt examines Black contemporary artists who are shifting the very nature of our interactions with the visual through their creation and curation of a distinctively Black gaze. Their work—from Deana Lawson's disarmingly intimate portraits to Arthur Jafa's videos of the everyday beauty and grit of the Black experience, from Khalil Joseph's films and Dawoud Bey's photographs to the embodied and multimedia artistic practice of Okwui Okpakwasili, Simone Leigh, and Luke Willis Thompson—requires viewers to do more than simply look; it solicits visceral responses to the visualization of Black precarity.

Campt shows that this new way of seeing shifts viewers from the passive optics of looking at to the active struggle of looking with, through, and alongside the suffering—and joy—of Black life in the present. The artists whose work Campt explores challenge the fundamental disparity that defines the dominant viewing practice: the notion that Blackness is the elsewhere (or nowhere) of whiteness. These artists create images that flow, that resuscitate and revalue the historical and contemporary archive of Black life in radical ways. Writing with rigor and passion, Campt describes the creativity, ingenuity, cunning, and courage that is the modus operandi of a Black gaze.

Pre-Order Hardcover

$29.95 T ISBN: 9780262045872 232 pp. | 6 in x 8 in 78 color illus., 33 b&w illus.

Reviews

  • "A BLACK GAZE is a methodological offering, a theory of what Blackness brings to making and viewing art, and to perception in general. Campt meditates thoughtfully on eight contemporary artists and, along the way, models a positively disorienting approach to visuality, compelling us to think about the interplay between Black art and the ways we exist in the world. Rather than tethering racial identity to an essentialized mode of looking, Campt describes the Black gaze as a heuristic approach to visuality."

    Art in America

Endorsements

  • “At once an incomparable critical inquiry, a rapt personal itinerary, and a cadenced poem, A Black Gaze by Tina Campt opens the mind, and eyes, to some of today's most transformative Black art and artists.”

    Thelma Golden

    The Studio Museum in Harlem

  • “Tina Campt is a champion for the contemporary Black imagination; a critical and self-reflective ally who helps us see the complexities of a Black interiority.”

    Theaster Gates

    Professor, Department of Visual Arts, University of Chicago

  • “A compelling meditation on the labor of witnessing, and writing about, the discomforting work of several artists who are transforming the contemporary visual cultural landscape.”

    Krista Thompson

    Mary Jane Crowe Professor of Art History, Northwestern University; author of Shine: The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice

  • “What is a Black gaze? Tina Campt explores this question profoundly by tracing the long history of looking at Black art practices and successfully merges the sensory of the sonic, the touch, and the optic. This dazzling book untangles in lively prose the impact Black diasporic archives have had on contemporary Black artists.”

    Deborah Willis

    New York University