A brand-new exhibition at the MacKenzie Art Gallery is taking a critical look at the invention of whiteness. Debuting 6 August 2022, Conceptions of White will examine the myths and meanings behind the relatively recent idea of a “white race,” its influence on contemporary discourse, and its impact on the modern world.
Curated by John G. Hampton and Lillian O’Brien Davis, Conceptions of White is a compelling exhibition featuring important historical reproductions alongside the work of twelve contemporary artists from across North America—offering nuanced perspectives on concepts such as white guilt, supremacy, benevolence, fragility, and power.
“Western society has been built on top of the concept of a white identity. Whether it is the cultural mosaic or the melting pot; the blending of fair-skinned peoples from various cultural backgrounds into one unified monolith is not a natural state of things, it is an invention of the seventeenth century,” states John G. Hampton, Executive Director & CEO at the MacKenzie. “Although racial categorization is an invented concept, it has very real consequences, many of which are there by design. As we take stock of our current cultural climate, these artists help us take on the important task of examining how we got here, the ongoing impacts of ‘race science,’ and the complex realities of present articulations of whiteness.”
Displaying both contemporary and classical art, the works in this exhibition investigate the origins, circulation, and present-day realities of whiteness as a racial invention—created alongside the concepts of “Blackness” and “Aboriginality.” The artists in this exhibition challenge viewers to confront the patterns of cultural erasure embedded in white identity and shed light on this under-examined concept that is deeply embedded within North American social, political, and legal structures. Together, the diverse narratives, images, and ideas presented in Conceptions of White aim to highlight the complexity of our historical foundation, while drawing on links between the aesthetic, social, and philosophical meanings ascribed to the colour white.
Conceptions of White will debut at the MacKenzie Art Gallery, and remain on view until 13 November 2022. Then, with the support of the Canada Council for this Arts, it will tour to the Art Museum at the University of Toronto, then the Vancouver Art Gallery.
MacKenzie Art Gallery
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