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Exhibition Summary

TEXTURES synthesizes research in history, fashion, art, and visual culture to reassess the “hair story” of peoples of African descent. Long a fraught topic for African Americans and others in the diaspora, Black hair is here addressed by artists, barbers, and activists in both its historical perceptions and its ramifications for self and society today. Combs, products, and implements from the collection of hair pioneer Willie Morrow are paired with masterworks of artists including James Van Der Zee, Sonya Clark, Lorna Simpson, Mary Sibande and Zanele Muholi. Exploring topics such as the preferential treatment of straight hair, the social hierarchies of skin, and the power and politics of display, TEXTURES is a landmark exploration of Black hair and its important, complex place in the history of African American life and culture. The exhibition is organized by the KSU Museum with KSU faculty and co-curators, Dr. Joseph L. Underwood, Assistant Professor of Art History and Dr. Tameka N. Ellington, former Interim Assistant Dean of the College of the Arts and Associate Professor of Fashion Design.

Exhibition Conception

TEXTURES: the history and art of Black hair offers new perspectives on Black hair featuring over 50 named artists, 180 objects and encompassing visual culture, material artifacts, and fine art from ancient Egypt to today. The co-curators, Dr. Tameka Ellington and Dr. Joseph Underwood, collaborated for four years, expanding on their individual research and connecting to reassess the complex social, historic, and very personal feelings around Black hair. Dr. Ellington has been researching the phenomena of Black hair since 2002 and Dr. Underwood’s research focuses on artists from the African continent and the Diaspora, focusing on the mid-to-late twentieth century to today. Together, they have assembled objects to provoke memories, generate conversations, and engage new ways of thinking about this simple, but powerful element: hair. Dr. Ellington observed, “The issues that Black people have had with their hair is more than 400 years old, and society is just now catching up. I do not say that to be harsh, but it is important for me to help others come to the realization that as long as there has been racism, there has been hair discrimination.”

The Digital Green Book

Explore the Digital Green Book, conceived in tandem with TEXTURES and inspired by Victor Green’s Green Book, this project documents the modern-day landscape of Black hair care in Northeast Ohio.

The Gallery

Visit the TEXTURES exhibition in the Kent State University Museum’s Broadbent Gallery.

The Catalogue

Visit the Kent State University Museum’s online store to purchase the 200-page exhibition catalogue published and distributed by Hirmer Publishers


Our Partners

TEXTURES: the history and art of Black hair is made possible with the generous sponsorship of:

Additional support for TEXTURES is provided by the Callahan Foundation, Kent State’s Global Understanding Research Initiative, Kent State’s Office of the Provost, Dean’s Office of Kent State’s College of the Arts, Leslie Royce Resnik, Kent State’s School of Fashion, Kent State’s Department of Africana Studies, Kent State’s Research and Sponsored Programs, Geneva Damron, Ph.D., colorist and brand ambassador Greg Gilmore, and the Kent Area (Ohio) Chapter of The Links Inc.


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