• With a Cast of Colored Stars
    Jason Alejandro, Sakshi Argawal, Anne H. Berry, Malini Chandra, Chango Cummings, Iman Diarra, Zach Frazier, Jasmine Graham, Rick Griffith, Manny Hernandez, Hana Lanzkowsky, Lisa Maione, Christine Miller, Staicy Ngongu, Sean Phan, Joelle Riffle, David Jon Walker, and Kelly Walters
    Kelly Walters
    Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, New York
    Jan 24, 2022 to Mar 01, 2022
    Kelly Walters

Kelly Walters, “With a Cast of Colored Stars, No. 3,” 2019. Risograph Print, 11 x 17 in. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Kelly Walters

Inspired by the visual representations found in early African-American cinema and music, With a Cast of Colored Stars highlights the evolution of racialized iconography in Black American popular entertainment. The title of the show is directly inspired by the marginal text used in Oscar Micheaux film posters such as Swing! (1938), The Exile (1931) and Underworld (1937). Among some of the many phrases displayed in these posters were, “an all colored cast” or “with a cast of colored stars”—language used by Black filmmakers to promote and advertise Black content during the early twentieth century. The exhibition features original music sheet covers, reproductions of theater advertisements, film posters and vinyl record covers that span from 1836–1979. Artists and designers were invited to interpret and re-mix from this historical imagery, and have produced work across a wide range of media—posters, zines, videos, newspaper broadsides, patterns, and collage. The intersection of historical print media alongside contemporary designer responses, gives space to reflect on the legacy of language, illustration, photography, and print techniques used to shape mainstream conceptions of Blackness in America.

Kelly Walters is an artist, designer, educator, researcher, and founder of Bright Polka Dot. Her practice includes teaching, writing, and experimental publishing, with a particular focus on race and representation in design. Her ongoing design research interrogates the complexities of identity formation, systems of value, and the shared vernacular in and around Black visual culture. Walters has worked as a designer for San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Rhose Island School of Design Museum, Alexander Isley, Inc. Designers, and Blue State. In 2015, she completed her master’s degree in graphic design from the Rhode Island School of Design. She was awarded an Association of Independent Colleges of Art & Design (AICAD) Teaching Fellowship in the Graphic Design program at California College of the Arts from 2015–16. She has previously taught at the University of Bridgeport, Rhode Island School of Design, University of Connecticut and Central Saint Martins. She is currently an assistant professor of communication design and the associate director of the undergraduate Communication Design Program at Parsons School of Design in New York.