press release

(Aug. 7, 2009) Why might South African artist Nandipha Mntambo disguise herself as a bull in “Europa”? Why is American artist Lyle Ashton Harris dressed as the iconic jazz singer Billie Holiday in “Billie #1”? Explore these questions and view other provocative works in the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art’s presentation of Undercover: Performing and Transforming Black Female Identities.

This original exhibition examines the complicated practice of Black women disguising themselves as well as the historic trend of others camouflaging themselves as Black women.

Featuring more than 50 works, the presentation’s concept is based on the idea that people manipulate their outward appearance for a variety of reasons. Highlighting paintings, photography, sculpture, video and works on paper, that were created from 1926 to today, most of the works have never been on view in Atlanta. Undercover is organized by the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art and curated by Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, Ph.D., director of the Museum, and Karen Comer Lowe, director of Comer Art Advisory, LLC.

Undercover will be on view from September 10 through December 5, 2009.

Undercover considers the reasons for being incognito and its multiple implications on race and gender. It examines seemingly disparate types of disguise including, self-portraiture, cross-dressing, and blackface performance.

While it includes works by well-known artists including Lorraine O’Grady, Cindy Sherman, Lorna Simpson, Doris Ulmann, and James VanDerZee, it also introduces promising emerging and midcareer artists such as Renée Cox, Lalla Essaydi, Ellen Gallagher, Myra Greene, Lyle Ashton Harris, Lauren Kelley, Kalup Linzy, Nandipha Mntambo, Magdalene Odundo, Berni Searle, and many others. Countless exhibitions have examined identity and race. In Undercover, however, exploring broader perspectives about Black women and disguise for the first time approaches this theme anew.

Major support for “Undercover: Performing and Transforming Black Female Identities” is provided by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners under the guidance of the Fulton County Arts Council.


Mequitta Ahuja Emma Amos Sheila Pree Bright Nick Cave Renée Cox Lalla Essaydi Ellen Gallagher Myra Greene Lyle Ashton Harris Lauren Kelley Marcia Kure Deana Lawson Kalup Linzy Beverly McIver Nandipha Mntambo Zanele Muholi Wangechi Mutu Magdalene Odundo Lorraine O'Grady Gordon Parks Jessica Ann Peavy Etiye Dimma Poulsen Berni Searle Cindy Sherman Coreen Simpson Lorna Simpson Renée Stout Mickalene Thomas Sheila Turner Iké Udé Doris Ulmann James VanDerZee Pat Ward Williams

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Kuratoren: Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, Karen Comer Lowe

Künstler: Mequitta Ahuja, Emma Amos, Sheila Pree Bright, Nick Cave, Renee Cox, Lalla Essaydi, Ellen Gallagher, Myra Greene, Lyle Ashton Harris, Lauren Kelley, Marcia Kure, Deana Lawson, Kalup Linzy, Beverly McIver, Nandipha Mntambo, Zanele Muholi, Wangechi Mutu, Magdalene Odundo, Lorraine O´Grady, Gordon Parks, Jessica Ann Peavy, Etiye Dimma Poulsen, Berni Searle, Cindy Sherman, Coreen Simpson, Lorna Simpson, Renee Stout, Mickalene Thomas, Sheila Turner, Ike Ude, Doris Ulmann, James van der Zee, Pat Ward Williams