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Genevieve Gaignard and Mickalene Thomas: Resting Our Eyes

Curated by Tahirah Rasheed and Autumn Breon

January 21June 25, 2023

ICA San Francisco

This image illustrates a link to the exhibition titled Genevieve Gaignard <br>Mickalene Thomas in <br><i>Resting Our Eyes</i>

Installation view of Resting Our Eyes, Courtesy of ICA SF
Photo credit: Impart Photography

The Combahee River Collective believed that society would inevitably benefit from the success of Black women-centered movements. When we consider what technologies have already been used to dismantle systems of oppression on a personal level, leisure and adornment are often overlooked, but extremely present in everyday life. From silk bonnets, hair salons, to memories of our grandmothers in the quiet meditation of “resting their eyes,” these mechanisms were criminalized and developed against and amidst oppression. A 1918 ordinance in Greenville, South Carolina required Black women to be jailed or heavily fined if they could not prove “regular and useful employment.” In 1786, Governor Esteban Rodriguez Miro enacted a law requiring Black women in Louisiana to wear scarves that completely concealed their hair after he found free Black women’s fashion as displaying “too much luxury in their bearing.” Resting Our Eyes highlights these mechanisms for freedom and reminds us of the visual vocabulary of those practices. These reminders help us imagine and affirm beauty, rest, and self-expression as radical and necessary acts.

Focusing on the liberation and celebration of Black women through the lens of leisure and physical adornment, Resting Our Eyes features new and existing works from 20 multi-generational Black artists working across sculpture, photography, video, mixed media, painting, and textile. Through embodied experiences of space and temporality, spectrums of abstraction and representation, these artists contend with the limitations and failures of the colonial gaze by casting Black womxn at the center of their visions through leisure and adornment. Collectively, these works invite us to see Black womxn as fully realized and free.

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