Visual Arts Curator Essence Harden, who organized Deborah Roberts: I’m, is joined by Leigh Raiford, Professor of African American Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, to discuss Roberts’s practice and works on view at Art + Practice. Harden and Raiford previously co-curated Plumb Line: Charles White and the Contemporary at CAAM in 2019, which featured work by Roberts. This talk takes place at Art + Practice in Leimert Park.
Essence Harden is a visual arts curator and program manager at the California African American Museum and an independent arts writer. Essence has curated exhibitions at California African American Museum (CAAM), Antenna Gallery (New Orleans), Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), Human Resources (Los Angeles), Oakland Museum of California, UTA Artist Space, El Segundo Museum of Art (ESMoA), Subliminal Projects, Eduardo Secci Contemporary (2022), the Orange County Museum of Art (2022), amongst others. Essence is a contributor to New York Times Magazine (2022), the Los Angeles Times Magazine: Image, SSENSE, Art21, Contemporary Art Review LA (CARLA), Artsy, LALA, Cultured Magazine, Performa Magazine, and SFAQ: International Arts and Culture and has written catalog entries for Prospect 5: Yesterday we said tomorrow; Brave New Worlds: Exploration of Space: Palm Springs Art Museum; and What Needs to Be Said: Hallie Ford Fellows Exhibition. Essence has also served as an art consultant for film and television. Essence is a 2018 recipient of The Creative Capital, Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant, and a 2020 Annenberg Innovation Lab Civic Media Fellow.
Essence graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in History and received their Master of Arts from the Department of African American Studies at UC Berkeley. Essence is a Ph.D. Candidate (ABD) in African Diaspora Studies at UC Berkeley.
Essence resides in Los Angeles, CA.
Leigh Raiford (she/they) is Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where she teaches, researches, curates and writes about race, gender, justice and visuality. At Berkeley, Raiford is also Co-Director and co-Principal Investigator with Tianna S. Paschel of the Black Studies Collaboratory, a three year initiative to amplify the world-building work of Black Studies funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Raiford is the author of Imprisoned in a Luminous Glare: Photography and the African American Freedom Struggle; co-editor with Heike Raphael-Hernandez of Migrating the Black Body: Visual Culture and the African Diaspora; and co-editor with Renee Romano of The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory. Raiford is Series Editor with Sarah Lewis and Deborah Willis of Vision and Justice, a new imprint of Aperture Books. Raiford’s work has appeared in academic journals including Art Journal, American Quarterly, Small Axe, and NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art; and popular venues including Artforum, Aperture, and Atlantic.com. Raiford has written essays about the work of a number of contemporary Black artists, including LaToya Ruby Frazier, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Dawoud Bey. In 2019, she co-curated the group shows Plumb Line: Charles White and the Contemporary at the California African American Museum, Los Angeles (with Essence Harden) and About Things Loved: Blackness and Belonging at the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive.
Raiford is currently completing two books: Collaboration: A Potential History of Photography co-conceived with Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, Wendy Ewald, Susan Meiselas and Laura Wexler (Thames and Hudson, 2023); and When Home is a Photograph: Blackness and Belonging in the World (forthcoming Duke UP).