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21c Museum Hotel: Dress Up, Speak Up

Dress Up, Speak Up: Costume and Confrontation Exhibit

Bedecked and bejeweled, the figures populating the exhibition "Dress Up, Speak Up" occupy fluid space and time, evoking past and present, fact and fiction, memory and desire, to illuminate the complexity of contemporary identity. Whether clad in the stylized garb of Enlightenment-era Europe, the traditional coverings of ancient religious tradition, or the gender-bending bling of popular culture, these representations of self and other role-play in real time, reaching back through history to address prevailing personal, social, and political challenges. From Ebony G Patterson’s families, dancers, "gangstas," and deceased, to the philosophers, dandies, and "faerie" conjured by Yinka Shonibare MBE, to portraits derived from allegory, autobiography, and the art canon by Titus Kaphar, Jefferson Pinder, Firelei Báez, Kehinde Wiley, Raúl de Nieves, Bae Joonsung, Kudzanai Chiurai, Fahamu Pecou, and others, this pantheon of provocative and prophetic personages are costumed to enact and confront the legacy of embedded experience.

Examining the evolution of self and society through the lens of history’s influence—both documented and unseen—is the central confrontation animating the exhibition. Patterson, Shonibare, Kaphar, and Pinder, along with Nick Cave, Jeannette Ehlers, Dinh Q. Lê, Jody Paulsen, and others adopt and adapt historical sources to address how discrimination and injustice have shaped both identity and its artistic representation. Reimagining, restaging, and re-performing iconographic imagery from Renaissance painting to present-day media, these artists expose the gaps and fissures in both art and history, illuminating the mutable nature of personal and collective memory. “In the absence of adequate facts,” says Titus Kaphar, “our hearts rifle through memories, foraging satisfactory fictions.” For those who inherit a legacy of resisting cultural erasure, telling untold tales—lived, remembered, or imagined—remains vital.

Image: Kehinde Wiley (American). Morpheus, 2008. Oil on canvas. ©Kehinde Wiley

Event Location:
21c Museum Hotel
700 W Main St
Louisville, Kentucky 40202

Event Date/Time:
All 10 days

Event Contact Information:
(502) 217-6300