Carren's Pitch

Life by Design

This is probably one of the most important shows I've seen in the past few years because of its value in re-casting and diversifying art history. 


It almost disappears from view, but in one corner, sitting beside Faith Ringgold’s large painting of a bleeding American flag, sits a small photo printed on the wall. It’s a reproduction of Phillip Lindsay Mason’s “Deathmakers.” The painting of two skeletal policemen carrying the body of a slain Malcolm X depicts a dramatic scene that underlies the turbulence of the times. The actual artwork isn’t at the Broad. Why? Because, despite the curators’ best efforts, it could not be located.

The missing artwork is a telltale sign of how much effort the curators, Mark Godfrey and Zoe Whitley of Tate Modern, undertook to pick up the tenuous threads that make up the history of African American art. It is only in recent years that African American artists working in previous decades have seen their works added to the collections of major institutions, even then it has only been a mere trickle. Perhaps this latest sweeping exhibition will help hasten the addition of this crucial voice in the American art history canon.

Revolutionary (Angela Davis), 1971 by Wadsworth Jarrell. Photo by: Carren Jao

Thankfully, the fate of Mason’s work does not hold true for the pieces in “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983,” on view at the Broad until September 1. Originated at the Tate Modern in London, the show presents the work of over 60 Black artists working during the height of the civil rights movement in the 60s and two decades hence. [read more]



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