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UCR ARTS' latest shows illuminate African American artistry and digital innovation

New exhibitions featuring collaborative works on African American art history and cutting-edge AI digital imagery showcase a blend of cultural significance and technological progress.

UCR ARTS is an interesting cultural institution to the Riverside arts community. It is located on the pedestrian walkway near City Hall and comprises two museums: the California Museum of Photography and the Barbra and Art Culver Center for the Arts. These two interlinked organizations hold seven exhibition spaces, a 72-seat independent movie theater, and spaces for theater, music, and dance. UCR ARTS is a space where world-class art thinking from experts from Riverside and further afield is presented to our Riverside community.

A new slate of shows opened on October 7th. This group of exhibits perfectly shows this variety of scholarship.

For David C. Driskell and Friends: Creativity, Collaboration, and Friendship, scholars from UCR, Wilkes University, and the University of Maryland worked together to form a show that is not only a biography of Driskell but a primer on African American art over the course of the 20th century. There are superstar artists like Alma Thomas, Romare Bearden, and Norman Lewis that are rare to see outside of art centers. It is the depth, though, that makes it truly excellent.

This exploration of themes relating to the Black experience is continued in Jon Henry: Stranger Fruit. It looks at a body of work by the contemporary photographer Jon Henry and the experience of Black mothers and the sons they may lose to violence in this world. Pulling from visual imagery relating to the pieta, it is one of the most effecting shows I have ever seen. The images are paired with words from the mothers about their experiences, which may make it hard for some going through the show, but the value is worth the emotional work they call for.

These two are joined by a set of two other shows which are very different in approach and content. The first looks at the quickly changing world of AI and digital image making. Every Day We Have to Invent the Reality of This World: AI Post Photography aims to capture this moment in the technology's use. By looking at how 16 different artists use the technology to create “photographic” images, one is able to have at least a cursory understanding of the many approaches one can take.

The last is Heresies: Still Ain’t Satisfied, which looks at a feminist and political journal named Heresies. It pulls on research by a professor and students at UCR on the journal's impact. There are even classes and public events programmed around its themes so that the ideas can continue to be explored by not only scholars but everyone.

All these coming together are a great example of what UCR ARTS does at its best. It is not simply a public-facing art museum, a research center for UCR students, or a venue for the community, but it is all those things. It only operates at its highest points when we all engage with it. Look to see the shows and the programming to truly get the most out of this great resource Riverside has access to. It is free for all, though films have a slight cost to cover programming fees.