In her essential book Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the PresentDeborah Willis, writer, educator, artist, and curator, charted the many ways artists have conceived of black beauty, from early modernist experiments to more recent work by Lorna Simpson, Bayeté Ross Smith, Carrie Mae Weems, and Willis’s own son, Hank Willis Thomas. “What is beauty?” she asked in her introduction for a book that she called “a retroactive manifesto.” “Is it tangible? How is the notion of beauty idealized and exploited in the media, in hip-hop culture, in art? Is black beauty a conditioning? Does beauty matter?”

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