Hunter College Art Galleries

Conversation with Dennis Delgado

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Online Event

3:15pm - 4:30pm

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The Dark Database—Facial Recognition and its “Failure” to Enroll

Dennis Delgado, exhibiting artist in "The Black Index" in conversation with CalvinJohn Smiley, Assistant Professor at Hunter College

Thursday, January 21, 2021: 3:15–4:30pm Pacific Time (6:15-7:30pm Eastern Time)


Join artist, Dennis Delgado, and scholar, CalvinJohn Smiley for a discussion about Blackness, surveillance and Delgado's series "The Dark Database." This event is co-hosted with the University of California Irvine and is organized in conjunction with the touring exhibition The Black Index, curated by Bridget R. Cooks. The Black Index will be presented online at the University Art Galleries at University of California, Irvine — CAC Gallery from Jan 14, 2021 to Mar 20, 2021, and will travel to the Hunter College Art Galleries in the winter of 2022.

The artists featured in The Black Index—Dennis Delgado, Alicia Henry, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Titus Kaphar, Whitfield Lovell, and Lava Thomas—build upon the tradition of Black self-representation as an antidote to colonialist images. Using drawing, performance, printmaking, sculpture, and digital technology to transform the recorded image, these artists question our reliance on photography as a privileged source for documentary objectivity and understanding. Their works offer an alternative practice—a Black index—that still serves as a finding aid for information about Black subjects, but also challenges viewers’ desire for classification.

For more information about The Black Index programming and exhibition tour visit:

About the Speakers:

Dennis Delgado was born in the South Bronx, and received an MFA from the City College of New York (CUNY). His work examines the ideologies of colonialism and their historical presence in the current moment. Whether working with video games, drone images, or looking at historical sites (like the Bronx Zoo), his practice reflects on the Eurocentric perspectives present in popular institutions and in American visual culture. His work has been exhibited at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and at the Cooper Union.

CalvinJohn Smiley, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Sociology Department of Hunter College (CUNY). A critical sociologist and criminologist, his work focuses on issues related to race, inequality, and social justice. He has studied, extensively, mass incarceration and prisoner reentry, particularly for urban low-income inhabitants. Dr. Smiley has published in various academic peer-reviewed journals and book chapters on topics such as: race and law enforcement, prisoner reentry, popular culture and music, social media and virtual space, education, and critical animal studies. He is the co-editor of Prisoner Reentry in the 21st Century: Critical Perspectives of Coming Home (Routledge, 2020) with Keesha M. Middlemass.

Credit Line:

Bridget R. Cooks, Ph.D. is exhibition curator and Associate Professor, Department of African American Studies and the Department of Art History, University of California, Irvine.

Exhibition and tour organized by Sarah Watson, Chief Curator, Hunter College Art Galleries, New York in collaboration with the University Art Galleries at UC Irvine, Palo Alto Art Center, and Art Galleries at Black Studies, University of Texas at Austin.

Lead support for The Black Index is provided by The Ford Foundation with additional support by UCI Confronting Extremism Program, Getty Research Institute, Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte, Carol and Arthur Goldberg, Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, Leubsdorf Fund at Hunter College, Joan Lazarus Fellowship program at Hunter College, Loren and Mike Gordon, Pamela and David Hornik, University of California Office of the President Multi-campus Research Programs and Initiative Funding, University of California Humanities Research Institute, Illuminations: The Chancellor’s Arts and Culture Initiative, UCI Humanities Center, Department of African American Studies, Department of Art History, The Reparations Project, and the UC Irvine Black Alumni Chapter. This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit