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Louisville exhibition highlights a wide array of Black artistic expression

A boy covers his face with his arms. From one side, a blue light shines on him.
Screenshot
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Moremen Gallery
Sparkle n' Glow by Ton'nea Green

The “Perspectives 2023” exhibition at Moremen Gallery includes the work of more than 30 Black artists showing a wide range of experiences through various artistic mediums.

The wall of the Moremen Gallery in downtown Louisville is packed with the work of more than 30 different Black artists.

They make up the “Perspectives 2023” exhibition on display there.

Gallery owner Susan Moremen said the exhibition came about through a conversation she was having with local Black creators Ed Hamilton and William Duffy.

“They start talking about Actors Theatre used to do a show every year for a long time and it was all African American art. But that hasn't happened for the last 10 years or so. And they said we really miss that,” Moremen said.

Moremen used her established connection with Black artists to find the people showcased in the exhibition.

She said the show, in part, aims to push back against the history of barring marginalized people from art spaces.

“People still feel intimidated, to come into spaces, to come into museums. If they've been told they don't belong there,” Moremen said. “I think we all in the art world want that diversity, we really want that diversity and we want to know about it.”

The exhibition includes paintings, sculptures, installations and more.

One of the first sets of pieces visitors encounter is three large works done by Darryl Tucker, @DarrylTucker3929 on Instagram.

Tucker’s work depicts several moments from his childhood that many people can resonate with. There’s a family reunion, a scene from his grandparents' house and one that is particularly close to Tucker of an after-church meal at his grandmother's.

“Every Sunday, she would have huge dinners, you know, and she would keep food in the fridge or it's always food or refrigerator whenever and she's always inviting someone to eat,” Tucker said.

A family sits around a table as greens cook on a stove. Out the window of the kitchen a church can be seen.
Darryl Tucker
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Darryl Tucker
"Sunday Dinner Over Grandmas After Church" by Darryl Tucker

Tucker’s work is finger-painted, a skill he originally started to use after seeing a video of a person using their fingers to blend paint. Now, he uses only his hand to create the entire piece.

His work ranges from detailed portraits to the storytelling pieces seen at the Moremen Gallery. He said his work helps to showcase the differences in living experiences between Black people and others through something other than a social justice lens.

“It's more than that, the wide variety of different eyes through an African American person and just their daily lives and how different it is from white people,” Tucker said.

The combination of Tucker’s daily, mundane decisions and social justice-oriented works showcase the range of the living Black experience.

That duality is seen clearly in the work of Michael Coppage, another artist featured in “Perspectives 2023.”

One of his pieces is a tryptic entitled “Lot #13.” Simply put, it depicts monkeys at an art auction, but the work holds so much symbolism.

“‘Lot #13 was or, I should say, is a painting that kind of illustrates the parallels between the auctioning of bodies and auctioning of bodies of work,” Coppage said.

Monkeys attend an auction for a piece of art work which show a body of water with a Black hand gripping the edge of the frame.
Michael Coppage
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Michael Coppage
Lot 13" by Michael Coppage

He said while names and titles have changed, the roles haven’t. People are still charged with keeping the lot in good condition, while the buyers still fight over the ownership of something.

“It's about how the value of a Black life in our country is diminished to a certain extent,” Coppage said. “And what the country really values, the most, more than anything, is our labor, whether that's physical labor or creative labor.”

While “Lot #13” confronts the Black bodies and labor that have been commodified for centuries, his other pieces in the exhibition highlight moments of calm and fun for Black people.

Three selected works from his “Joyous” collection display items or moments that represent Black experiences that don’t center on trauma.

“I started thinking about relaxation and recreation, and, you know, the fleeting moment of joy, you know, where all of that stuff that I'm talking about in this prior body of work, disappears,” Coppage said.

In the paintings from the “Joyous” series, Coppage made the subject things that Black folks he knew enjoyed. Roller skating. Playing cards. And, for himself, painting.

Two jokes sit on a card table.
Michael Coppage
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Michael Coppage
"Big Joker" by Michael Coppage

Blackness is the main subject matter of “Perspectives 2023.” It’s shown in so many different aspects, lights and mediums. And for many of the artists that means painting what they know.

Artist Ton’nea Green’s work in the show features Black children including her own son.

“I like to portray kids in their most natural state just how we always see them. They're not being posed or not told to stand a certain way or do certain things,” Green said. “It's literally just who they are in personality, in visual format, and I think that that shows kind of like a visual story about their personality and who they are.”

Green has three paintings up at Moremen Gallery. One of them is of a little girl with her arms crossed and what looks like a pout on her face.

It’s entitled “She’s Not Mad.” And the title is literal. She’s not upset. Green said the girl is actually mimicking things she sees her older brother and sister do. But that initial thought is the whole point.

“It made me take a step back and be like, am I carrying the angry black girl trope?” Green said. “Am I projecting what society has told me about what little black girls are? She's two. She’s not sassy. She's not mad, she's a baby.”

A little girl stands with her crossed, a slight pout on her face.
Ton'nea Green
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Ton'nea Green
"She's Not Mad" by Ton'nea Green

Green hopes visitors walk away thinking about the way society has conditioned them to take in Black children and what they do with that conditioning.

“I really want to encourage people to kind of just you know really kind of think about those moments with children not just what they might appear when you very first look at them and you have your own projection of it but just kind of sit and think what is that actual moment look like for a child,” Green said.

The entire exhibition challenges visitors to take in Black people beyond a monolith and see the intricacies that exist within the community.

“Perspectives 2023” is a free exhibit open at the Moremen Gallery until Jan. 28.

This story has been updated.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.