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Intertwined Culture and Gestures of Refusal: Current Exhibitions at New Orleans Art Museums

"Organized by Resident Curator Shana M. griffin, this immersive showcase brings together contemporary photographers who wield the power of the camera to celebrate and document moments of Blackness that defy erasure and subjectivity.


Spanning two floors, the exhibition offers a captivating journey through contemporary photography. Yet, it also ventures into anthropological and historical explorations, specifically highlighting the aesthetics that define the Gulf Coast experience.


In one gallery is a didactic video, produced by Louisiana Public Broadcasting for PBS Digital Studios and Houston Public Media, that examines the convergence of West African, Haitian, and New Orleans cultures. The video illuminates the creation of a unique collective ritual, offering insight into the rich tapestry of cultural influences that shape the Black experience. This gallery answered some of the questions that arose during my visit to New Orleans. Costuming and decorative arts are emblems of the city, and they can seem so densely ornate that they appear as a genre of their own. Fortunately, this exhibition carved out space to discuss these topics.


The show’s title is inspired by Tina M. Campt’s notion of “gestures of refusal,” which Campt emphasizes are embedded within artist’s practices and visual representations of Black culture, ranging from quiet acts of resistance to more overt forms of defiance. The exhibition showcases works that challenge everyday forms of violence and misrepresentation. From quiet acts of resistance to spectacular displays of creativity, these artists employ photography as a political instrument, offering alternative narratives and visual vocabularies for the future.


With over one hundred contemporary Black artists featured, including immersive installations and over two hundred art objects, Gestures of Refusal invites audiences to engage with the complexities of Black experience and renders Blackness visible in all its vibrancy and resilience."