Location: The New School, Aronson Gallery Date: January 24th to March 1st
Inspired by the visual representations found in early African-American cinema and music, With a Cast of Colored Stars, highlights the evolution of radicalized iconography in Black American popular entertainment. The title of the show is directly inspired by the marginal text used in Oscar Micheaux film posters such as Swing! (1938), The Exile (1931) and Underworld (1937). Among some of the many phrases displayed in these posters were, “an all colored cast” or “with a cast of colored stars”—language used by Black filmmakers to promote and advertise Black content during the early 20th century.
The exhibition features original music sheet covers, reproductions of theater advertisements, film posters and vinyl record covers that span from 1836–1979. Artists and designers were invited to interpret and re-mix from this historical imagery, and have produced work across a wide range of media—posters, zines, videos, newspaper broadsides, patterns and collage. The intersection of historical print media alongside contemporary designer responses, gives space to reflect on the legacy of language, illustration, photography and print techniques used to shape mainstream conceptions of Blackness in America. With a Cast of Colored Stars challenges us to reckon with how particular language and imagery contributed to racial stereotypes and what cultural symbols have “defined Blackness” as we know it today. This exhibition is an educational platform for cross-cultural and interdisciplinary dialogue on Black representation as it connects to the history of mainstream print media.