Artists & Exhibitions Focus on Racial Justice in the US
When New York Times and CBS News conducted a poll last week regarding the racial discontent, it was hardly a surprise that the results indicated the discontent being at an all-time high since 2008, the year when President Obama came to power. The cry for law enforcement reforms was further strengthened after the tragic deaths of Alton Sterling & Philando Castile for which the police was held responsible, and the subsequent killings of five policemen in Dallas followed by three more last week in Baton Rouge only conveys the gravity of the situation furthermore.
The art community, especially the artists have taken to voicing their opinions, concerns, and emotions through their works not only for the recent events but for the iconic incidents in history of social and racial injustice including the American civil rights movement.
Shepard Fairey, a street artists based in Los Angeles has recently created a new work using the well known Reuters image of a young black woman standing affront a line of Louisiana state troopers all of them geared for riots. Iesha L Evans (the name with which the woman has been identified) is portrayed to be standing in a calm and composed manner, even as the troopers charge towards her.
The blog post that accompanied this print that was published earlier this month, Fairey has in fact gone on to condemn a prevalent reluctance on part of the police to punish or even acknowledge bad behavior. He further goes on to say that in order to invoke some kind of trust in them, the police needs to make an effort to recognize their own shortcomings and showcase a willingness to reduce the racial bias and the excessive use of violence.
As a part of a recent Culturunners touring project that was attended by ten Middle-Eastern cartoonists including Khalid Albiah, a Sudanese political cartoonist whose family fled to Qatar following the 1989 coup, the participants finished a road trip across America. In a video that was published by the Guardian earlier this month, Albiah lays down the mission of the project to create artworks that would explore the ideological boundaries between America and the Middle East.
It was during this tour that Albiah drew parallels between the American civil rights movement and the global fight for human rights today. During the American civil rights movement it was the basic human rights that they were fighting for and it is the same today for the people in the Middle East. He also points out the difference between the two where he says that in US the people went to the court as there was at least some kind of a constitution but in Middle East there isn’t hence it has turned into an all-out war.
At the same time, in US and in UK, the museums are contributing to redefine the role of black artists in the history. It was survey of work conducted by Kerry James Marshall at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago that resulted in due prominence being given to paintings like A Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self (1980) and Untitled (2009) which portrayed an ebony-skinned woman with a palette and an artist’s brush that have managed to inscribe black people including the artist in the western art scene. The show would also be travelling to other museums of repute and respect like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
Tate Modern in London would be showering its attention on African American artists like Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, Lorraine O’Grady and Betye Saar in the coming summer. It was these artists who effectively redefined the term ‘black art’ in the years 1963 to 1983. The show titled Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power would open on the 12th of July 2017, and would go on till the 22nd of October.