Cleveland Museum of Art Shows Fashion

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The exhibition, The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion, opens on May 8 and runs through September 11.

Fashion abounds in Cleveland if you know where to look. You can find them in every nook and cranny — from inside designer boutiques at Chagrin Falls to among antique store shelves in Lakewood. One place that will start to appear more and more is at The Cleveland Museum of Art. Darnell-Jamal Lisby, the museum’s new assistant curator, will lead the task. Her role, above all, is to show how fashion can be appreciated and dissected as art. “I think most people separate the two as individual media,” Lisby said. “But I think many aspects of fashion are considered artistic and artistic.” The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashionwhich opens on May 8 and runs through September 11, is just the first of many fashion exhibitions that open up a whole new world of art.

Just like painting, fashion can communicate a bigger message. For The New Black Vanguard exhibit at The Cleveland Museum of Art, is about conveying the Black experience. The exhibition, originally curated by Antwaun Sargent, features renowned photographers and artists, such as Tyler Mitchell and Awol Erizku, whose work has been featured in Mode, The New York Times etc.

And it’s not just about fashion, it’s also about how these photographers struggle to get their art seen.

“These young black artists,” says Lisby, “have been able to navigate and overcome all these great obstacles to have their work displayed worldwide and admired and appreciated and celebrated by all, not just within the Black community.”

Additionally, the exhibition showcases a range of stylists and their contributions to fashion photography, proving that beautiful fashion shots come together through a range of artistic eyes and creative decisions and, oftentimes, the way clothes are arranged speaks to themes of identity and race.

“We are against the idea that darkness is homogeneous,” Lisby said. “That’s a common trope, the idea that darkness is monolithic, and black people are monolithic. We all come from very different experiences, different lifestyles, like other cultures and communities.”

A piece of clothing can send one message to one culture, but it can send a completely different narrative to another. Arielle Bobb-Willis will feature stylish outfits, for example, that celebrate joy and fun, while Daniel Obasi’s work will communicate the experience of being queer in Nigeria.

“It’s about styling,” says Lisby, “and how it reflects their experience, the experience of stylists, and photographers and sometimes models too.”

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