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Photographers shot millions of pictures of the black civil rights struggle between the close of World War II and the early 1970s, yet most Americans today can recall just a handful of images that look remarkably similar. In the popular imagination, the civil rights movement is remembered in dramatic photographs of protestors attacked with police dogs and fire hoses, firebombs and shotguns, tear gas and billy clubs. The most famous images of the era show black activists victimized by violent Southern whites. But there are other stories to be told. Blacks changed America through their action, not their suffering. In this groundbreaking catalogue, Martin Berger presents a collection of forgotten photographs that illustrate the action, heroism, and strength of black activists in driving social and legislative change. Freedom Now! highlights the power wielded by black men, women, and children in courthouses, community centers, department stores, political conventions, schools, and streets. Freedom Now! reveals that we have inherited a photographic canon--and a picture of history--shaped by whites' comfort with unthreatening images of victimized blacks. And it illustrates how and why particular people, events, and issues have been edited out of the photographic story we tell about our past. By considering the different values promoted in the forgotten photographs, readers will gain an understanding of African Americans' role in rewriting U.S. history and the high stakes involved in selecting images with which to narrate our collective past.
In 2017, the Whitney Biennial included a painting by a white artist, Dana Schutz, of the lynched body of a young black child, Emmett Till. In 1979, anger brewed over a show at New York's Artists Space entitled The Nigger Drawings. In 1969, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition Harlem on My Mind did not include a single work by a black artist. In all three cases, black artists and writers and their allies organized vigorous responses using the only forum available to them: public protest. Whitewalling: Art, Race & Protest in 3 Acts reflects on these three incidents in the long and troubled history of art and race in America. It lays bare how the art world--no less than the country at large--has persistently struggled with the politics of race, and the ways this struggle has influenced how museums, curators and artists wrestle with notions of free speech and the specter of censorship. Whitewalling takes a critical and intimate look at these three "acts" in the history of the American art scene and asks: when we speak of artistic freedom and the freedom of speech, who, exactly, is free to speak? Aruna D'Souza writes about modern and contemporary art, food and culture; intersectional feminisms and other forms of politics; how museums shape our views of each other and the world; and books. Her work appears regularly in 4Columns.org, where she is a member of the editorial advisory board, as well as in publications including the Wall Street Journal, ARTnews, Garage, Bookforum, Momus and Art Practical. D'Souza is the editor of the forthcoming Making it Modern: A Linda Nochlin Reader.
Prior to 1967 fewer than a dozen museum exhibitions had featured the work of African American artists. And by the time the civil rights movement reached the American art museum, it had already crested: the first public demonstrations to integrate museums occurred in late 1968, twenty years after the desegregation of the military and fourteen years after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision. In Mounting Frustration Susan E. Cahan investigates the strategies African American artists and museum professionals employed as they wrangled over access to and the direction of New York City's elite museums. Drawing on numerous interviews with artists and analyses of internal museum documents, Cahan gives a detailed and at times surprising picture of the institutional and social forces that both drove and inhibited racial justice in New York's museums. Cahan focuses on high-profile and wildly contested exhibitions that attempted to integrate African American culture and art into museums, each of which ignited debate, dissension, and protest. The Metropolitan Museum's 1969 exhibition Harlem on My Mind was supposed to represent the neighborhood, but it failed to include the work of the black artists living and working there. While the Whitney's 1971 exhibition Contemporary Black Artists in America featured black artists, it was heavily criticized for being haphazard and not representative. The Whitney show revealed the consequences of museums' failure to hire African American curators, or even white curators who possessed knowledge of black art. Cahan also recounts the long history of the Museum of Modern Art's institutional ambivalence toward contemporary artists of color, which reached its zenith in its 1984 exhibition "Primitivism" in Twentieth Century Art. Representing modern art as a white European and American creation that was influenced by the "primitive" art of people of color, the show only served to further devalue and cordon off African American art. In addressing the racial politics of New York's art world, Cahan shows how aesthetic ideas reflected the underlying structural racism and inequalities that African American artists faced. These inequalities are still felt in America's museums, as many fundamental racial hierarchies remain intact: art by people of color is still often shown in marginal spaces; one-person exhibitions are the preferred method of showing the work of minority artists, as they provide curators a way to avoid engaging with the problems of complicated, interlocking histories; and whiteness is still often viewed as the norm. The ongoing process of integrating museums, Cahan demonstrates, is far broader than overcoming past exclusions.
The Wall of Respect: Public Art and Black Liberation in 1960s Chicago is the first in-depth, illustrated history of a lost Chicago monument. The Wall of Respect was a revolutionary mural created by fourteen members of the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC) on the South Side of Chicago in 1967. This book includes photographs by Darryl Cowherd, Bob Crawford, Roy Lewis, and Robert A. Sengstacke, and gathers historic essays, poetry, and previously unpublished primary documents from the movement's founders that provide a guide to the work's creation and evolution. The Wall of Respect received national critical acclaim when it was unveiled on the side of a building at Forty-Third and Langley in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood. Painters and photographers worked side by side on the mural's seven themed sections, which featured portraits of Black heroes and sheroes, among them John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and W. E. B. Du Bois. The Wall became a platform for music, poetry, and political rallies. Over time it changed, reflecting painful controversies among the artists as well as broader shifts in the Civil Rights and Black Liberation Movements. At the intersection of African American culture, politics, and Chicago art history, The Wall of Respect offers, in one keepsake-quality work, an unsurpassed collection of images and essays that illuminate a powerful monument that continues to fascinate artists, scholars, and readers in Chicago and across the United States.
Activist art experienced a new beginning in the Seattle anti-globalization protests of 1999, but it didn't reach a zenith until Occupy Wall Street, a movement initiated by artist-activists and structured around performative gestures and iconic imagery for the media age. In this moment, activist art and radical ideas briefly invaded the mainstream imagination, and the art world proper opened its doors--momentarily--to activist art, having been forced to acknowledge its presence. Art critic and historian Yates McKee recounts this turn of events, and argues that it has fundamentally changed contemporary art, whether or not the art world knows it yet.
MacPhee and Reuland have collected work from a wide range of contributors - artists, writers and activists - on the close relationship between aesthetics and politics in anti-authoritarian social movements. With topics ranging from turn of the century French cartoonists to modern day Indonesian printmaking, to the radical video collectives of the US and Mexico, Realizing the Impossible discusses a global phenomenon with a history. A lavishly illustrated history of art and anarchism.
Reflections in Black, the first comprehensive history of black photographers, is Deborah Willis's long-awaited, groundbreaking assemblage of photographs of African American life from 1840 to the present. Willis, a curator of photography at the Smithsonian Institution, has selected nearly 600 stunning images that give us rich, hugely moving glimpses of black life, from slavery to the Great Migrations, from rare antebellum portraits to 1990s middle-class families. Featuring the work of undisputed masters such as James Presley Ball, C. M. Battey, James VanDerZee, Morgan and Marvin Smith, Gordon Parks, Moneta Sleet, Jr., and Carrie Mae Weems, among hundreds of others, Reflections in Black is, most powerfully, a refutation of the gross caricature of the many mainstream photographers who have continually emphasized poverty over family, despair over hope. Recalling Roman Vishniac's Vanished World in terms of its documentary importance, and Brian Lanker's I Dream a World in terms of its exceptional beauty, Reflections in Black is not only an exceptional gift book for any occasion but also a work so significant that it has the power to reconfigure our conception of American history itself. It demands to be included in every American family's library as the record of an essential part of our heritage. Publication will coincide and tie in with a major exhibition at The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, which will then travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Albany, New York; Corpus Christi, Texas; and other cities.
The direct action social protest movement of the 1950s and 1960s resulted in sit-ins, marches, and other showdowns with armed police officers and National Guardsmen. Trained in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s methods of nonviolence, young black men and women took to the streets to fight for their civil rights and sparked a social revolution. Thousands of acts of courage were undertaken in the pursuit of freedom'acts that were often photographed, leaving behind a disquieting visual record of this violent and tumultuous period in American history. Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1956-1968 is the most significant exhibition of civil rights photographs presented in an art museum in more than twenty years. These images were taken by many photographers-photojournalists, artists, movement photographers, and amateurs alike-all of whom seem to have had a keen understanding of the significance of their subject. This publication presents a narrative of some of the key moments of the civil rights movement, including the Freedom Rides of 1961, the Birmingham hosings of 1963, and the Selma to Montgomery March of 1965. These are the unforgettable images that helped to change the nation, increasing the momentum of the nonviolent movement by dramatically raising awareness of injustice and the struggle for equality.