UMBC’s Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery presents the work of Baltimore artist Antonio McAfee in the exhibition Antonio McAfee: Through the Layers, Pt. 2, now through March 13.

Since 2011, Antonio McAfee has been making work influenced by historical portraiture of African Americans in the The Exhibition of American Negroes. Organized for the 1900 Paris World Exposition by W.E.B. Du Bois, the display functioned as a legislative, economic, and photographic survey of middle-class African Americans living in Georgia from 1850–1899. This ‘counter archive’ challenged racist assumptions steeped in pseudo-science, presenting proof of the vitality and upward social mobility of southern blacks. 

Beth Saunders, curator and head of UMBC’s Special Collection and Gallery, noted that “McAfee’s persistent archival impulse led us to invite him to work with historical photographs in Special Collections.” Once on-site, McAfee engaged primarily with the Rooks Collection of African and African American Photographs, named for Ronald Rooks, a Baltimore art dealer who donated the earliest accessions.

In an interview with curator Emily Hauver for the exhibition catalog, McAfee, a photographer raised and based in Baltimore, said that working with the Rooks Collection expanded the context of understanding the period of 1850-1900: “The assortment of vernacular photography made during and after the Civil War in the Rooks Collection is a resource for accessing the intimate and public lives of African Americans of the Civil War period.” He also relayed that the variety of processes represented in the collection including daguerreotypes, hand-painted tintypes, albumen silver prints, cabinet cards, and gelatin silver prints also triggered more experimentation in his own work with the images. “(Seeing) the markings and strokes on some of the prints in this collection, I have been inspired to incorporate more mark making in my new work.”

Antonio McAfee, The Magician, 2019. Pigment print, 3D image with 3D glasses. © Antonio McAfee, Courtesy of the Artist

Antonio McAfee, Robert Smalls, 2019. Pigment print, 3D image with 3D glasses. © Antonio McAfee, Courtesy of the Artist 

Antonio McAfee, The Gem, 2019. Pigment print, 3D image with 3D glasses.  © Antonio McAfee, Courtesy of the Artist

 

Antonio McAfee, Third (3), 2019. Pigment print, 3D image with 3D glasses. © Antonio McAfee, Courtesy of the Artist 

Antonio McAfee, Young Man and Dog, 2019. Pigment print, 3D image with 3D glasses.  © Antonio McAfee, Courtesy of the Artist

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A public program with reception to follow is free and open to the public on Thursday, February 27, at 5 p.m.: Art, Race, and the Archive: Antonio McAfee in Conversation with Shawn Michelle Smith

Header Image: Installation view of Antonio McAfee: Through the Layers, Pt. 2. Exhibition, photo by Marlayna Demond ‘11 for UMBC

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