BlackGrounds is a new lecture series co-presented by VCUarts’s department of Art History and the ICA at VCU. The series will feature innovative art historical scholarship on the many ways in which artists from Africa and its diasporas explore the dialogue between the global and the local. BlackGrounds seeks to offer critical and historical context to regionally and nationally grounded discourses of Black identity and belonging, as well as globally imagined geographies of Black diasporic and Pan-African community.


Cherise Smith is the Joseph D. Jamail Chair in African American Studies in the Department African & African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin where she is affiliated with Art History. Her research centers on African American art, the history of photography, performance, and contemporary art. She is the author of Michael Ray Charles: Studies in Blackness (University of Texas Press, 2020) which won the Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The book places the artist’s work in the context of the 1990s, the rise in collecting of Black “memorabilia,” the challenges posed by art censorship, and Pop art among other historical trends. Her book, Enacting Others: Politics of Identity in Eleanor Antin, Nikki S. Lee, Adrian Piper, and Anna Deavere Smith (Duke University Press, 2011), examines how identity is negotiated in performance art in which women artists take-on the characteristics and manners of a racial, ethnic, and gender “other.” She has worked in the curatorial departments of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Saint Louis Art Museum among other institutions



This talk will propose Black Melancholia as a critical art-historical and curatorial practice that engages with methodological as well as ethical questions when we encounter gaps in the archive and are confronted with the non-linear aspects of anti-blackness in Black artists’ lives.

About the speaker:

Nana Adusei-Poku, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in African Diasporic Art History in the Department of History of Art at UC Berkeley, California. She was previously Associate Professor and Luma Foundation Fellow at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, New York. She is the author of Taking Stakes in the Unknown: Tracing Post-Black Art (2021), editor of Reshaping the Field: Art of the African Diaspora on Display (2022) and, her articles have been published in Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, e-flux, Kunstforum International, Flash Art, L’Internationale and darkmatter. She curated the event ‘Performances of Nothingness’ (Academy of Arts, Berlin, 2018) and Black Melancholia (Hessel Museum Bard College, New York 2022).