In the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, Kwame Brathwaite (born Brooklyn, New York, 1938) used photography to popularize the political slogan “Black Is Beautiful.” This exhibition—the first ever dedicated to Brathwaite’s remarkable career—tells the story of a key figure of the second Harlem Renaissance. Inspired by the writings of activist and Black nationalist Marcus Garvey, Brathwaite, along with his older brother, Elombe Brath, founded the African Jazz Arts Society and Studios (AJASS) and the Grandassa Models. AJASS was a collective of artists, playwrights, designers, and dancers. Grandassa Models—the subject of much of this show’s contents—was a modeling agency for Black women, founded to challenge white beauty standards. From stunning studio portraits to behind-the-scenes images of Harlem’s artistic community, including Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln, this exhibition at the Blanton Museum of Art offers a long-overdue exploration of Brathwaite’s life and work.
Image: Kwame Brathwaite, Sikolo Brathwaite wearing a headpiece designed by Carolee Prince, African Jazz-Art Society & Studios (AJASS), Harlem, circa 1968 (detail); from Kwame Brathwaite: Black Is Beautiful (Aperture, 2019), Courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los AngelesView Map