A new exhibition celebrating the power, beauty and architectural potential of Black diasporic hair practices will be debuted at the University of Houston on Thursday, Feb. 2 to kick off Black History Month.
“Hair Salon” will display art, design and architectural works inspired by Black hair and its unique material properties. The exhibition builds on research that looks to traditional African material culture and practices in the Americas that can be leveraged as a source of new architectural technologies.
The work at UH, funded by the Graham Foundation, is led by Sheryl Tucker de Vazquez, instructional associate professor at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design and interim director of the interior architecture program.
“Very little African material culture survived the Trans-Atlantic slave trade,” said de Vazquez. “But the unique material properties of Black hair, more than any other genetic trait, signifies Blackness, and Black hair care practices are a vibrant, living inheritance throughout African diasporic cultures.”
She explains that her work at the exhibition will combine fabrics and metals to recreate the inherent stiffness and materiality of Black hair. Because the Black hair strand grows straight up, she said, it defies gravity, does not need support, and can naturally enclose and contain space. Additional exhibition pieces featured will draw upon the plasticity of natural Black hair and the methods of joining used in braiding, African threading, twisting and locking.
The multi-faceted exhibition team is made up of de Vazquez; Marcella del Signore, director of graduate studies in architecture, urban, and regional planning at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT); Tatiana Teixeira, instructor at NYIT; William D. Williams, associate professor of architecture at the University of Cincinnati; Felecia Davis, Pennsylvania State University associate professor of architecture and director of Softlab; Dijana Handonović, assistant professor of interior architecture at UH; Medina Dugger, photographer; Francois Beaurain, photographer/multi-media artist; and Rabéa Ballin, professor of art at Lone Star College.
Who: “Hair Salon” team
What: Art, design and architectural works inspired by Black hair
When: Exhibition opens Thursday, Feb. 2 at 6 p.m. It will be on display through February.
Where: Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design, 4200 Elgin St., Houston, TX 77204 (Map).