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

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.

Bridget R. Cooks is Associate Professor, Department of African American Studies and the Department of Art History, University of California, Irvine. Exhibition and tour organized by Sarah Watson, Chief Curator, Hunter College Art Galleries, New York in collaboration with the University Art Galleries at UC Irvine, Palo Alto Art Center, and Art Galleries at Black Studies, University of Texas at Austin.

Lead support for The Black Index is provided by The Ford Foundation with additional support by UCI Confronting Extremism Program, Getty Research Institute, Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte, Carol and Arthur Goldberg, Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, Leubsdorf Fund at Hunter College, Joan Lazarus Fellowship program at Hunter College, Pamela and David Hornik, Loren and Mike Gordon, University of California Office of the President Multi-campus Research Programs and Initiative Funding, University of California Humanities Research Institute, Illuminations: The Chancellor’s Arts and Culture Initiative, UCI Humanities Center, Department of African American Studies, Department of Art History, The Reparations Project, and the UC Irvine Black Alumni Chapter. This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit

CAC Gallery Closed (Online Only). Due to COVID-19 campuswide restrictions, the exhibition will not be open to the general public.

Virtual Tour:

Please stay tuned for a virtual tour experience of the exhibition.

Artist & Scholar Zoom Events:

All events are free to the public with RSVP.

January 14, 2021, 3:15pm - 4:30pm
"Black Manicule: Pointing Elsewhere"
Courtney R. Baker, Professor, Department of English, UC Riverside.
Hosted by UCI.
RSVP for the event here.

January 15, 2021, 11am - 12:30pm
"The Black Index: Artists in Conversation"
Lava Thomas, artist, with Leigh Raiford, Professor of African American Studies, UC Berkeley; and Whitfield Lovell, artist, with LeRonn Brooks, Curator for Modern and Contemporary Collections, The Getty Research Institute.
Hosted by The Getty.
RSVP for the event here.

January 21, 2021, 3:15pm - 4:30pm
"The Dark Database"
Dennis Delgado, artist, with Calvin John Smiley, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Hunter College.
Hosted by The Hunter College Art Galleries.
RSVP for the event here.

February 4, 2021, 3:15pm - 4:30pm
"A Study in Blackness and Black Identity"
Cherise Smith, Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies, UT Austin.
Hosted by UCI.
RSVP for the event here.

February 18, 2021, 3:15pm - 4:30pm
Alicia Henry, Professor of Art, Fisk University with Bridget R. Cooks, Professor and Exhibition Curator, UC Irvine.
Hosted by the Palo Alto Art Center.
RSVP for the event here.

February 19, 2021, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
"The Black Index: Archiving Black Creativity and Resistance"
Simone Fujita, Bibliographer, African American Art History Initiative at The Getty Research Institute with Krystal Tribbett, Curator for Orange County Regional History, UC Irvine.
Hosted by The Getty.
RSVP for the event here.


All performances will be pre-recorded and shared at a later date.

"The Evanesced: Embodied Disappearance [Breonna]"
Performance by Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, exhibiting artist.
CAC Gallery, UC Irvine

"The Antidote Suite"
Peformed by JoVia Armstrong's Eunoia Society
JoVia Armstrong, percussionist+composer, Ph.D. Program in Integrated Composition, Composition, and Technology, UC Irvine, with Leslie DeShazor-Adams, viola, and Elden Kelly, guitar.

"A Death Song"
Musical Performance by Darryl Taylor, Professor, Department of Music, UC Irvine with Catherine Miller, pianist.
CAC Gallery, UC Irvine

"Meditations on Oya"
Dance Performance by Nola Gibson
Choreography by S. Ama Wray, Professor, Department of Dance, UC Irvine.
CAC Gallery, UC Irvine

Learn more here.

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