The DuSable Museum of African American History

The Endangered Species:  A Visual Response to the Vanishing Black Man

The Endangered Species:  A Visual Response to the Vanishing Black Man

Against the backdrop of exquisite beauty, this show interrogates masculinity, sexuality, slavery, vanity, mental poverty and the futility of aspiration. Each piece is a riotous installation—a visual treasure hunt. Bespoke top hats, gilded icons, and ancient timepieces knit together with vibrant butterflies, lush flowers, and grandiloquent peacock eyes to tell the story of black folk. These photomontages in three-dimension represent archeology of black America—Welch’s tribute to a dying race.
“From within a fields of color and metaphor, black men lookout—beautiful but without hope-vanishing.”

Curated by Raub Welch

Artist Statement. – Raub Welch

To tell the truth is noble, but to evoke it—that’s art.

When I think about the purpose of my art —that is, how I want it to affect those who experience it— it always comes back to the truth. Simple, unassuming, yet astoundingly poignant truth. This exhibit uses the hard power of juxtaposition to re-tell the realities of black manhood. We as a society have graduated to a misguided comfort when it comes to defining the black man: dutiful, aggressive, industrious, thoughtless, reliable and most incorrectly, simple. As creatures, we (black men) carry a narrative too ghastly and nightmarish ever to qualify as merely “simple.” The larger issue (and perhaps the focus of my exhibit) is that we have completely divorced the concept of beauty from the black man. My exhibition aims to interrogate these prejudices, reassess our predispositions, and redefine the black male as an entity that is beautifully complex, and longing for humanity.

These various pieces are designed to reconnect provocatively the idea of beauty to the black man. I draw inspiration from seemingly arbitrary sources and assemble them into what might initially seem to be a potpourri of unconnected themes. Upon further inspection and deliberation, the truths reveal themselves and the beauty resonates. Relics and Rituals from the different “bits-and-pieces” are combined to create what feels like a distant dreamscape of ideas and concepts. I made sure to leave just enough creative room for each person to draw their own unique, and personal conclusion about how that piece operates—as an artistic entity, and as a liaison between their imagination and the unpleasant truths. Highly imaginative and anchored in the deepest candor, this exhibit invites new perspectives and thoughts on the famed and infamous black male.

This project is partially supported by a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events