'Black Cowboy' Exhibition Reveals a Forgotten Part of US History
2017, JAN 7
A new exhibition at The Studio Museum in Harlem challenges popular silver screen portrayals of the American cowboy.
Those darn Westerns! A new exhibition at The Studio Museum in Harlem challenges popular silver screen portrayals of the American cowboy. Curated by Amanda Hunt, Black Cowboy pictures a distinctly different gaucho than the bank-robbin', bootstrappin' John Wayne of yore. Featuring photography and video works by artists Mohamed Bourouissa, Kahlil Joseph, Deana Lawson, Chandra McCormick, Ron Tarver, and Brad Trent, Black Cowboy gives visibility to the black boys and girls who have been excluded from the white, men's narrative.
The 2012 documentary and multimedia project, The Forgotten Cowboy, chronicles the lives of contemporary black cowboys; Quentin Tarantino’s 2012 alternative history revenge western, Django Unchained, was a rare, if overwrought, viewing of a black cowboy on the silver screen correcting injustice; Ron Tarver, a photographer for the Philadelphia Inquirer who is also featured in the exhibition, spent the last two decades capturing black cowboy communities in the city and across the country personally and for the paper. In The Basketball Game, Tarver shows a boy in motion, shooting a ball at a public court while his horse waits. The figure casts a long shadow that, for Hunt, “juxtaposes black life and the pressures of the urban landscape.” She says, “It’s the perfect metaphor for the long shadow of history and the expectations of the black male life.”