The Presidential Library Project: Black Presidential Imaginary

Sunday, Mar 26 – Jul 2, 2017 6 – 7 pm

5020 S. Cornell
Chicago, IL 60615

Part of the Super Spring Sunday Opening Reception

Read CGN's interview with curator of the exhibition, Ross Jordan, here.

The Presidential Library Project: Black Presidential Imaginary addresses the long history of representations of a black president of the United States in visual culture, both comedic and aspirational, through contemporary art installation and institutional archives. The exhibition curated by Ross Jordan presents visual, performance, architecture, and discussions that proposes a participatory, decentralized, speculative, and multinarrative foundation for the future Obama Presidential Center.

The exhibition also highlights archives of documentary footage and contemporary artifacts invented from imagining the first black American President. Popular cultural images of black presidents include a selection of film and television representations, ranging from a film starring a seven-year-old Sammy Davis Jr. to Key and Peele’s “Anger Translator.”

Presidential libraries and museums are notorious for obfuscating the historical truths found in their archives and for advancing a presidential and political agenda while diluting controversy, criticism and failure. Franklin Delano Roosevelt designed the first presidential library and museum on his own property in Hyde Park, New York in 1941. The Obama Presidential Center, to be built on Chicago’s South Side just blocks away from the Hyde Park Art Center, will be the fourteenth such structure, built with private funds and maintained with public money, dedicated to the preservation and presentation of the history of a presidential administration. The Presidential Library Project: Black Presidential Imaginary highlights both the racist and hopeful history of imagining a black president through archival and artistic encounters. 

By presenting this project, the Art Center continues its support of emerging curators by providing the opportunity to showcase their ideas at a critical moment in their career, gaining visibility and creating connections in the arts community in Chicago and beyond. The guest curator of the exhibition, Ross Jordan, has been generating projects focused on the confluence of American politics, visual culture, and artistic production for the past several years. He is currently Curatorial Manager at Jane Addams Hull-House Museum.

The Presidential Library Project is generously supported by the David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg Arts Foundation.

Image: Zachary Fabri, Aureola (Black Presidents), set of 9, 2012, digital C prints, 20" x 30"