Yale School of Art exhibit explores the ‘pulp’ challenge to racial injustice

A new exhibition at the Yale School of Art (YSA) explores the creative use of printed media and artwork to challenge racist narratives and change limited notions of black experience in America.

“Black Pulp!” features 65 objects, including rare magazines, literary journals, novels, cartoons, and comics, as well as contemporary art from the Black Diaspora. It tells a story of black and non-black artists and publishers working together over 90 years to draw attention to the black experience, rebuff Jim Crow politics, and refute racist caricatures.

The exhibition — curated by artist William Villalongo, a lecturer at YSA, and YSA alumnus Mark Thomas Gibson, ’13 M.F.A. — will be on view Jan. 19–March 11 at the YSA’s 32 Edgewood Avenue Gallery in New Haven. It is free and open to the public from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.

“The pulp attitude is to take the tragic and painful points of history, like Jim Crow and the Vietnam War, and challenge them through biting humor, satire, and wit,” says Villalongo. “Many works on view offer up windows into the darker, erotic, satirical, and more absurd recesses of the black popular imagination, while underscoring important debates around personhood and identity.”

The exhibition features influential Harlem Renaissance-era periodicals, such as The Crisisand Opportunity magazines, and rare art journals, such as Fire!! and Ebony & Topaz. It includes contributions from Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Library, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Library of Congress, and Yale University Art Gallery.

The exhibition includes works by many renowned artists and illustrators such as Aaron Douglas, Lois Mailou Jones, Laura Wheeler, E. Simms Campbell, Eleanor Paul, Gwendolyn Bennett, Miguel Covarrubias, Winold Reiss, Charles Cullen, Richard Bruce Nugent, Owen Middleton, Elton Fax, Ollie Harrington, Billy Graham, Charles White, Emory Douglas, Jackie Ormes, and Jacob Lawrence. Rare comics such as Lobo #1, Negro Romance, and others will be on view.

The Torchy in Heartbeats comic strip was created in 1950 by Jackie Ormes, who was the first African American cartoonists to have a syndicated comic strip in the United States.

“The contemporary artworks displayed offer critical rebuttals to a history of derogatory images of the black body, questioning this history through fiction, irony, humor, and strategic appropriation,” says Gibson.

Contemporary artists represented include Derrick Adams, Laylah Ali, Firelei Baez, Nayland Blake, Robert Colescott, Renee Cox, William Downs, Ellen Gallagher, Deborah Grant, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Lucia Hierro, Isaac Julien, William Pope L., Kerry James Marshall, Wangechi Mutu, Lamar Peterson, Kenny Rivero, Alexandria Smith, Felandus Thames, Hank Willis Thomas, Kara Walker, and Fred Wilson.

A public reception will take place on Thursday, Jan. 21 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the 32 Edgewood Gallery. 

For more information on the exhibition or visiting 32 Edgewood Avenue Gallery, contact the Yale School of Art at 203-432-2600 or send email to [email protected].

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