The Black Index
Curated by Bridget R. Cooks
Jan 14, 2021 to Mar 20, 2021

Titus Kaphar, "Redaction (San Francisco)," 2020. Etching and silkscreen on paper, 30 x 22 inches each. Image by Christopher Gardener Courtesy of Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts.

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.


Support for The Black Index exhibition and programs is provided by The Ford Foundation, Getty Research Institute, Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte, UCI Confronting Extremism Program, University of California Humanities Research Institute, UCI Humanities Center, Illuminations: The Chancellor’s Arts and Culture Initiative, Department of African American Studies, Department of Art History, and the UC Irvine Black Alumni Chapter.


Due to COVID-19 campuswide restrictions, the exhibition will not be open to the general public. Online programming and events TBA.