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Black Light Cinema Project and Homecoming: Black Craft & Design in Chicago

Join us for an opening reception to celebrate and kick off our summer exhibitions!



In a world rich with diverse cultures and histories, the concept of belonging and homeplace holds profound significance. Within the tapestry of human experiences, one thread stands out with resilience, creativity, and an indomitable spirit – the Black cinematic experience. SSCAC is debuting the ‘Black Light Cinema Project’ to explore the intricate interconnectedness of Black life through new media and film. This inaugural iteration explores themes of belonging, homeplace, and identity, while celebrating the vibrancy of our urban landscapes, partnered alongside our 2nd floor Cortor gallery exhibition ‘Homecoming: Black Craft & Design in Chicago’.

At its core, ‘Black Light Cinema Project’ seeks to dismantle conventional notions of homeplace and embrace a more nuanced understanding through the exhibiting of the underrepresented medium of film in art space. We invite visitors to venture beyond the physical spaces we call home, encouraging them to delve into the emotional, spiritual, and ancestral landscapes that define our sense of belonging. Through ongoing screenings of film shorts, we offer a multifaceted exploration of the Black experience, revealing the complex interplay of history, memory, and identity.


Featured Artists: Jada Amina , zakkiyyah najeebah dumas-o’neal, Cameron Granger , Paige Taul, and cai thomas


This exhibition is curated by SSCAC Exhibitions Manager and Curator Lola Ayisha Ogbara.


Cameron Granger. Heavy as Heaven. 2022, 11 mins, 3-channel, Sound, Digital file. 


‘Homecoming: Black Craft & Design’ in Chicago utilizes the varying practices of several Black craft artists in Chicago working in the mid to late 20th century and pairs their work with historical archival materials from the socio-political movements in the city during the Black Arts Movement, of the 60’s and 70’s.

Chicago is internationally known as a diverse cultural landscape that is rooted in segregation and discrimination, but this exhibition aims to explore how studio craft artists are using their practices and connections to spaces like the South Side Community Art Center to explore these themes. This exhibition seeks to present the complex multivalent histories of Black artists with varying connections to the South Side Community Art Center during its early years in the mid-twentieth century. These artists all in some way play with the performative presentations of body and self through creating ambiguous figures or forms. These artists have explored complex themes of Black cultural representation, concepts around object functionality and performativity, issues in presentation of self through objects, and methods of socio-cultural identity making through creative expression.

The exhibition will present the biographical backgrounds of the artists included while exploring how they technically executed their works (both professionally and personally), as well as reflecting on the conceptual subjects that fueled their practices.


Featured Artists: Elizabeth Catlett, Irene Clark, Bobbe Cotton, Jeremiah Drake, Espi Eph, Clinton Foreman, Eselean Henderson, William McBride, Geraldine McCullough, El Roi Parker, Marva Jolly Pitchford, Allen Stringfellow, Teresa Staats, and Bill Walker.


This exhibition is curated by SSCAC Archives and Collections Manager LaMar Gayles Jr.



William McBride. Balancers. Oil on canvas. 1945


Works in EMERGENCE are diverse in their subject matter and media, but a few themes reappear throughout. Working in abstraction or in the traditionally peaceful genre of still life, artists like William Carter, Allen Stringfellow, and Jonathan Green express themes of interiority or sociability, history or modernity. Notably, Stringfellow and Ralph Arnold both experimented with media and materials and worked extensively in collage, which allowed them to combine abstract design, figurative imagery, and on occasion political ideas.

Viewers typically expect Black artists to focus on particular aspects of their social and political identities within their work. Where might those expectations come from? Still life, abstraction, and collage may express many different things about artists’ interior lives and their visual and social observation, whether connected to public manifestations of identity or not.

William Carter’s mid-century still life Untitled presents a group of vibrantly colored bottles that invite the viewer’s gaze, set against a similarly colorful background with floral elements like grapes and leaves. They give evidence of conviviality and might be interpreted as symbols of social gatherings, but they could also just be a collection of pleasing forms. We might put Carter’s still life in dialogue with that of Jonathan Green, who became close friends with Carter while living in Chicago. Green’s close-up view of an eloquently simple composition presents oranges, a pear, and a lemon in front of two vessels. Works like this piece call the viewer to examine the objects the artist chose to include, to consider how they interact with each other like bodies in space, and to reflect on their meaning within the traditional genre of still life painting.

Collage might suggest the piecing together of identity from different components that might not usually coexist, giving room for more expansive imaginations of meaning than a straightforward representational image might allow. It could also just be an inventive way of combining colors, shapes, and textures. Allen Stringfellow’s Untitled, a collage from 1962, brings familiar motifs from still life—fruit and flowers, desserts and glassware—together with imagery of artist’s models and performers. Layered with paint and tissue paper that frustrate the viewer’s attempt to get clarity on the subject matter, the bursts of form and colors hint at the splashy abstraction of Stringfellow’s untitled, textured painting made from house paint and particulate on cardboard. Here the artist tests commonly found materials to create new textures and plays with the creation of colors and finishes that diverge from “Western” academic painting methods.

In The Waiting, Arnold constructs a large collage from different paper components, lace, and paint. In the piece, elements of European and African art are placed in dialogue with one another, while some figures appear alone and isolated, others in large groups. Without giving easy answers, Arnold implies questions about social issues. Who is waiting, and for what? In his Love Sign II, which bears the words “Love is Universal,” Arnold asserts the equal validity of all types of romantic affection and love, utilizing collage to convey a more straightforward political message.