The Boca Raton Museum of Art presents the premiere of Reginald Cunningham: Black Pearls, the first-ever museum exhibition of Cunningham’s work, curated by Kelli Bodle, Assistant Curator.
The Museum has commissioned Cunningham, nationally acclaimed for his brand BePureBlack.com, for this new series of photographs to honor the nearby historically Black neighborhood of Pearl City, celebrated as one of the earliest and longest lasting African American neighborhoods in Florida.
“The Pearl City residents are our Museum’s closest neighbors, located only two blocks away, and we want to celebrate our neighbors with this exhibition,” says Irvin Lippman, the Executive Director of the Boca Raton Museum of Art.
Cunningham is a photographer and influencer whose work focuses on urban style and portraiture. His editorial/activist lens, and his images of concerts, fashion icons, performers and thought leaders, are at the forefront of contemporary photography.
“Through the lens of my photography I’m always trying to create affinity for and uplift Black people and the Black experience in this country,” says Reginald Cunningham.
“Being commissioned by the Boca Raton Museum of Art to photograph the residents and cultural emblems of Pearl City ─ one of the South’s most beloved and enduring Black districts ─ is an amazing experience,” adds the artist.
During the 2020 history-making marches and protests, Cunningham was selected to photograph the cover of British Vogue’s special issue titled Activism Now: the Faces of Hope.
Featuring a portrait he took of his wife, the prominent activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham, the headline-grabbing magazine cover was heralded as a consequential power-couple move.
The pair first met in 2014 at a Black Lives Matter protest a few blocks from Cunningham’s family home in St. Louis. They are currently based in DC.
The exhibition at the Boca Raton Museum of Art will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue, featuring an essay about the artist by Dr. Imani M. Cheers (Associate Professor of Digital Storytelling at The George Washington University). The catalogue also includes a historical essay by Dr. Candace Cunningham (Assistant Professor of History at Florida Atlantic University).
This is the first time a museum has presented a solo exhibition of Reginald Cunningham’s work. He personally interviewed each of his subjects thoroughly before their portrait sittings. Cunningham has also captured the physical and ephemeral elements that make up the community, preserving the stories of generations.
“Because there is perpetually the threat of development that would throw asunder this neighborhood, we want to tell this story through the current residents whose ancestors were the original settlers,” adds Irvin Lippman.
“To accomplish this visual storytelling, the Museum selected Reginald Cunningham, whose photography celebrates Black identity and is currently earning national and international acclaim. It is a rare artist whose social activism matches their artistry.”
“These works by Reginald Cunningham have now entered the Museum’s collection. This is most definitely a project born in the community, that serves to create a record for future generations,” adds Lippman.
Reginald Cunningham (BePureBlack.com) is a Washington DC-based photographer known for his concert, fashion, and activist photography. He fully embraced the art of photography in 2017, and his works have been featured in The Washington Post, Essence, Ebony, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Take Part, and The Final Call.
His passion for photography was instilled by his mother, herself a photographer for more than 30 years. During his childhood, he was often in her studio absorbing her appreciation for portraiture. He began to develop his art during the Ferguson unrest.
“He doesn’t turn activism ‘on’ or ‘off’ with a swipe to the left or right. Instead, Reggie leads with his lens,” says Dr. Imani M. Cheers.
“Through his photography, Reggie captures the complexities of communities. He sees the nuances in neighbors. He puts himself directly on the front lines to bear witness, sacrifice his safety, and tell the truth.” adds Dr. Cheers.
His style is edgy and intimate, often forgoing smoothing and airbrushing in favor of sharper and more realistic images. He attended Lindenwood University, received a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and dual Master’s degrees in Digital & Multimedia Design and Promotional Communications.
Reginald Cunningham : Black Pearls
September 3, 2022 ─ January 22, 2023
The Boca Raton Museum of Art
501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton, FL 33432
Reginald Cunningham’s website