The Black Index

  • The Black Index
    The Black Index
Titus Kaphar, "Redaction (San Francisco)," 2020. Etching and silkscreen on paper. Courtesy of Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts. Photo by Christopher Gardener.

The artists featured in The Black Index—Dennis Delgado, Alicia Henry, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Titus Kaphar, Whitfield Lovell, and Lava Thomas—build upon the tradition of Black self-representation as an antidote to colonialist images. Using drawing, performance, printmaking, sculpture, and digital technology to transform the recorded image, these artists question our reliance on photography as a privileged source for documentary objectivity and understanding. Their works offer an alternative practice—a Black index—that still serves as a finding aid for information about Black subjects, but also challenges viewers’ desire for classification.

The works in The Black Index make viewers aware of their own expectations of Black figuration by interrupting traditional epistemologies of portraiture through unexpected and unconventional depictions. These works image the Black body through a conceptual lens that acknowledges the legacy of Black containment that is always present in viewing strategies. The approaches used by Delgado, Henry, Hinkle, Kaphar, Lovell, and Thomas suggest understandings of Blackness and the racial terms of our neo-liberal condition that counter legal and popular interpretations and, in turn, offer a paradigmatic shift within Black visual culture.

Bridget R. Cooks is Associate Professor, Department of African American Studies and the Department of Art History, University of California, Irvine. Exhibition and tour organized by Sarah Watson, Chief Curator, Hunter College Art Galleries, New York in collaboration with the University Art Galleries at UC Irvine, Palo Alto Art Center, and Art Galleries at Black Studies, University of Texas at Austin.

This exhibition is dedicated to David C. Driskell.


CAC Gallery Closed (Online Only). Due to COVID-19 campuswide restrictions, the exhibition will not be open to the general public.


Virtual Tour:


All performances will be pre-recorded and shared at a later date.


"The Evanesced: Embodied Disappearance [Breonna]"
Performance by Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, exhibiting artist.
CAC Gallery, UC Irvine

"The Antidote Suite"
Peformed by JoVia Armstrong's Eunoia Society 
JoVia Armstrong, percussionist+composer, Ph.D. Program in Integrated Composition, Composition, and Technology, UC Irvine, with Leslie DeShazor-Adams, viola; Elden Kelly, guitar; and Isaiah Sharkey, bass.

"A Death Song" 
Musical Performance by Darryl Taylor, Professor, Department of Music, UC Irvine with Catherine Miller, pianist.
CAC Gallery, UC Irvine

"Meditations on Oya"
Dance Performance by Nola Gibson
Choreography by S. Ama Wray, Professor, Department of Dance, UC Irvine.
CAC Gallery, UC Irvine


Exhibition Catalogue:
The Black Index
Edited by Bridget R. Cooks and Sarah Watson
Distributed by Hirmer Publishers
Pre-order here.


Visit The Black Index project

Dennis Delgado
Alicia Henry
Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle
Titus Kaphar
Whitfield Lovell
Lava Thomas
Bridget R. Cooks
Contemporary Arts Center Gallery
Exhibition Dates: 
Jan 14, 2021 to Mar 20, 2021
Thursday, January 14, 2021 - 3:15pm to 4:30pm

"Black Manicule: Pointing Elsewhere"

Courtney R. Baker, Professor, Department of English, UC Riverside.
Hosted by UCI
Watch on Youtube

The manicule (☚) is a typographic symbol of a hand with a pointing index finger. This talk will discuss art practices and images that point to, away from, and beyond fixed ideas of Black life.

Dr. Courtney R. Baker is a specialist on the impact of visual culture in Black life. She is an Associate Professor in the department of English at University of California, Riverside. Her book, Humane Insight: Looking at Images of African-American Suffering and Death, was published in the New Black Studies series, edited by Darlene Clark Hine and Dwight McBride, by the University of Illinois Press in 2015. She has written academic and popular essays on African-American film, the history of the image in African-American activism, and the ethics of narratives about death. She teaches courses on Black film, African-American literature, race and ethnicity in American Studies, cultural studies, and critical theories of the human and the visual. 

Discussion moderated by Bridget R. Cooks.

This event is made possible by the UCI Black Thriving Initiative.

Friday, January 15, 2021 - 11:00am to 12:30pm

"The Black Index: Artists in Conversation"

Lava Thomas, artist, with Leigh Raiford, Professor of African American Studies, UC Berkeley; and Whitfield Lovell, artist, with LeRonn Brooks, Curator for Modern and Contemporary Collections, The Getty Research Institute.
Hosted by The Getty.
Watch on YouTube

Thursday, January 21, 2021 - 3:15pm to 4:30pm

The Dark Database: Facial Recognition and its "Failure" to Enroll

Dennis Delgado, artist, with Calvin John Smiley, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Hunter College.
Hosted by The Hunter College Art Galleries.
Watch on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 4, 2021 - 3:15pm to 4:30pm

"A Study in Blackness and Black Identity"

Cherise Smith, Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies, UT Austin.
Hosted by UCI.
Watch on Youtube.

Scholar Cherise Smith discusses the art of Michael Ray Charles, an artist who rose to prominence in the 1990s for works that engaged American stereotypes of Black Americans. Based on her research and collaboration with the artist to produce the recent book, Michael Ray Charles, Smith addresses Charles’ redeployment of stereotypical images from the indexes of Black Americana, popular culture, and politics.

Thursday, February 18, 2021 - 3:15pm to 4:30pm


Alicia Henry, Professor of Art, Fisk University with Bridget R. Cooks, Professor and Exhibition Curator, UC Irvine.
Hosted by the Palo Alto Art Center.

Join us for a conversation between exhibition artist, Alicia Henry and exhibition curator, Bridget R. Cooks about Henry's art practice, influences, and her installation, Analogous III, featured in The Black Index.

Friday, February 19, 2021 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

"The Black Index: Archiving Black Creativity and Resistance"

Simone Fujita, Bibliographer, African American Art History Initiative at The Getty Research Institute with Krystal Tribbett, Curator for Orange County Regional History, UC Irvine.
Hosted by The Getty.


Lead support for The Black Index is provided by The Ford Foundation with additional support by UCI Confronting Extremism Program, Getty Research Institute, Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte, Carol and Arthur Goldberg, Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, Leubsdorf Fund at Hunter College, Joan Lazarus Fellowship program at Hunter College, Pamela and David Hornik, Loren and Mike Gordon, University of California Office of the President Multi-campus Research Programs and Initiative Funding, University of California Humanities Research Institute, Illuminations: The Chancellor’s Arts and Culture Initiative, UCI Humanities Center, Department of African American Studies, Department of Art History, The Reparations Project, and the UC Irvine Black Alumni Chapter. This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit