Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties at the Brooklyn Museum http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/witness_civil_rights/ (Through July 6, 2014)
March 7 July 6, 2014
Robert E. Blum Gallery, 1st Floor
Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties offers a focused look at painting, sculpture, graphics, and photography from a decade defined by social protest and American race relations. In observance of the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this exhibition considers how sixty-six of the decades artists, including African Americans and some of their white, Latino, Asian American, Native American, and Caribbean contemporaries, used wide-ranging aesthetic approaches to address the struggle for racial justice.
The 1960s was a period of dramatic social and cultural upheaval, when artists aligned themselves with the massive campaign to end discrimination and bridged racial borders through creative work and acts of protest. Bringing activism to bear in gestural and geometric abstraction, assemblage, Minimalism, Pop imagery, and photography, these artists produced powerful works informed by the experience of inequality, conflict, and empowerment. In the process, they tested the political viability of their art, and originated subjects that spoke to resistance, self-definition, and blackness.
Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties is organized by Teresa A. Carbone, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of American Art, Brooklyn Museum, and Kellie Jones, Associate Professor, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University. A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition.
We didnt want a dream, we wanted a revolution, the sculptor Mark di Suvero says in the catalog for this utterly captivating exhibition. The art establishment ignored us. Pop art was just starting up. We were against capitalism.
Yoko Onos text instruction piece Voice Piece for Soprano (1961), shown in the Museum of Modern Arts atrium in 2010, takes on a new ferocity in this context: It reads, Scream. 1. Against the wind. 2. Against the wall. 3. Against the Sky.
Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties
Over 100 works by African American artists and others from the 1960s Civil Rights Movement show powerful responses in art to events of black history. Marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Witness accompanies an exhibition organized by the Brooklyn Museum and demonstrates the array of aesthetic strategies through which 1960s artists engaged in the struggle for racial justice. Personal recollections from artists including Mark di Suvero and Jack Whitten intertwine with rich illustration, engaging essays, and documentary photos along with a comprehensive chronology of the period from 1954 to the 1970s.
African American artists featured include Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, David Hammons, and Melvin Edwards. Represented as well are notable artists who recorded aspects of the Civil Rights struggle, including Richard Avedon, Bruce Davidson, Andy Warhol, Robert Indiana, and Philip Guston. This collection of emotionally resonant artworks lets us see the Civil Rights movement with new eyes and is a fitting tribute to a turbulent period in history, whose struggles continue to shape America.