Chris Dingwall | Writing | Curating | Teaching

African American Designers in Chicago: Art, Commerce, and the Politics of Race, Chicago Cultural Center (October 2018-March 2019).

From top: exhibition view; Herbert Temple designs of Ebony, Negro Digest, and Black World; Charles Harrison chair and slide projector.

Exhibition design by David Hartt.

African American Designers in Chicago:
Art, Commerce, and the Politics of Race

The exhibition highlights the work of African American commercial artists who shaped the racial politics of mass consumerism during the twentieth century. As co-curator, I helped tell this story by selecting a range of design work from manufactured products such as chairs and dolls to printed ephemera such as album covers and magazine advertising. My long essay on the social history of African American design in Chicago was freely distributed as an illustrated newspaper-style handout in the gallery space. The exhibition, supported by the Terra Foundation of American Art, runs at the Chicago Cultural Center from October 2018 to March 2019.

A symposium on The Designs of African American Life celebrated the opening of the exhibition on November 3, 2018 with a group of leading scholars in African American studies who spoke on the themes of design, political economy, and politics.

The exhibition and symposium have been reviewed in public and scholarly forums:
Race and the Design of American Life, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago (October 2013-January 2014)

Race and the Design of American Life:
African Americans in Twentieth-Century Commercial Art

This exhibit, which was held at the Special Collections Research Center at the University of Chicago from October 2013 to January 2014, surveyed the ways in which African Americans shaped the visual iconography of consumer capitalism: as images and as makers and consumers of their own image. The exhibit text and a selection of images is preserved online here.