“Cuts and Beats” Creates New Imagery from Racist Music Memorabilia.

"Cuts and Beats" Cecil McDonald Chicago Defender
Let it Alone, 2018, Cecil McDonald Jr.,

Chicago artist, Cecil McDonald, Jr., debuted his new solo exhibition, “Cuts and Beats,” earlier this month. Located at the Hyde Park Art Center, the “Cuts and Beats” exhibit is part of a trio of exhibitions featuring established and emerging Chicago artists. The Hyde Park Art Center re-opened at reduced capacity but remained thrilled to bring new exhibits to the public.

“Right now, our galleries are full of new photography, painting, sculpture, sound, and video works-much of it made during the pandemic. This is a great moment to experience what the Art Center does best by bringing artists at all levels in their career together to exhibit under one roof.” -Allison Peters Quinn, Director of Exhibition and Residency Programs.

In “Cuts and Beats,” Cecil McDonald, Jr., uses his experience as a photographer and his time spent in Chicago nightclubs to create photomontages to subvert racist representation of Black artists throughout history. Using vintage sheet covers, theater advertisements, and artist publicity photos, he transforms these images by combining his photos taken in nightclubs.

"Cuts and Beats" Cecil McDonald Chicago Defender
Chicago Artist, Cecil McDonald, Jr.

“It was as if I was collaborating with these artists from other periods in history. I was transforming their images to create something that was more beautiful and elegant instead of the racist imagery they were forced to deal with.” -Cecil McDonald, Jr.


McDonald studied fashion, house, and dance music culture before receiving his MFA in photography from Columbia College. The influence of House music and the nightclub scene in Chicago was a natural fit in the “Cuts and Beats” exhibition.

“Black people have always used nightclubs to rejuvenate their spirits. There are three spaces Black people can be themselves and enjoy their own sense of agency. Their homes, nightclubs, and churches. In nightclubs black people can be who they want to be and with their own people, enjoying their own music. It is one of those spaces where you do not have to worry about white interference, McDonald said.

House music played a central role in the creation of this project. McDonald drew on his own experiences within nightclub culture. “House music is highly spiritual, welcoming, and rejuvenating. So, to take that imagery from the scene and supplant that was a natural move for me. It is the same type of spirit running through it all.”

The “Cuts and Beats” exhibition runs through June 12 at the Hyde Park Arts Center. For more information visit https://www.hydeparkart.org

Danielle Sanders is a journalist and writer living on the Southside of Chicago. Find her on social media @DanieSandersOfficial.


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