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Fine and Dandy

What began as a small photography exhibit as a part of an installation within Harlem’s Society HAE‘s headquarters has become a bonafied art world phenomenon. The exhibition titled Dandy Lion: Articulating a Re(de)fined Black Masculine Identity looks at the mash up between traditional African fashion sensibilities and European style aesthetics.

The original exhibit is conceived and curated by  Shantrelle P. Lewis in conjunction with Society HAE. Lewis, who curates exhibitions for New York’s Caribbean Cultural Center and African Diasporan Institute (CCCADI), expanded the project with a national call for photographic works that fall within the the conceptual scope of the exhibition. Empowered with a broad and exceptional response to the project, Shantrelle secured dates at several museums and institutions throughout the U.S. for Dandy Lion to travel.

A “dandy” is described as “a man who affects extreme elegance in clothes and manners”. The images in the exhibit feature a juxtaposition of urban black men whose clean and creative fashions stand out against the backdrop of sagging jeans, baseball caps and big t-shirts. “Noticeably different  from his historical minstrel or Harlem Renaissance queer prototype, the 21st Century Dandy Lion is more masculine than metro-sexual, more of an expression of the African aesthetic and mode of swagger than an imitation of European high-brow society”, says Lewis’s curatorial statement. The contemporary dandy’s style, or “swagger” engages both African aesthetics and elements of classical European fashion. The exhibit features works by 20 emerging photographers and filmmakers all presenting refreshing images of young black men whose looks challenge popular conceptions of black masculinity.

The exhibit which may soon be produced as a full-color catalogue has traveled to to Amsterdam, the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art (MoCADA) in Brooklyn, as well as recently to Newark’s Aljira, A Center for Contemporary Art,. Dandy Lion runs January 29 – May 13, 2012, 2012 at The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture in Baltimore.

Featured Artists

Hanif Abdur-Rahim

Kwesi Abbensetts

Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

Kia Chenelle

Bouba Dola

Delphine Fawundu-Buford

Russsell K. Frederick

Cassi Amanda Gibson

Akintola Hanif

Jamala Johns

Caroline W. Kaminju

Phillis Kwentoh

Jati Lindsay

Lafotographeuse (née Amanda Adams-Louis)

Ray Llanos

Devin Mays

Terence Nance

Brandi Pettijohn

Radcliffe Roye

Nyugen E. Smith



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