Friday, November 8, 2019

Soul, Part 2 --- Day 8/215

Walk: Hood
Distance: 1.5 miles, Yoga

With its brazen colors, clenched fist and dripping American flags imagery, Ciwt has always assumed Black Power art was created by isolated, angry artists to menace if not incite violence. But as she listened to the Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983artists tell it like it really was she learned that much of that 60's and 70's art was created in thoughtful artistic collectives.  Collectives that discusssed issues like what was Black Art, what was its look and purpose, how could it be important and endure.  They were also in the process of forming a Black Nation they, their brothers and sisters in Africa and the States would identify with and take pride in.  These artists meant to be creative, inclusive and expressive. They were passionate, but, especially knowing no galleries or museums would likely display what they made, they - most of them anyway -  weren't being incendiary. 

Photographer Ming Smith  put it so well: I wanted to show the grace, the love, and, how do you say?, the surviving.

On her way to the preview Ciwt certainly didn't expect a change in her understanding of 'Black Power Art' in the decades immediately following Martin Luther King and the tumultuous 60's. Black Power was not her cause (although she was a contemporary with great sympathy); when she'd encountered the works back then she'd assumed they were in-your-face angry (for good reason she might add).  If the artists hadn't been at the de Young preview to speak their truths she's not sure she would have gotten how much more considered and profound their art actually was. She didn't have time to notice whether he exhibition's signage speaks for this 'softer' understanding, so she wonders whether viewers will see the soul and not the anger, and how they will apply it to their current views about racism.  Just wondering, no solutions here.  Overall Ciwt found the show richly engaging, alive, thought provoking - historically and in the moment.  

As for the individual works, she had her favorites.  She loved the powerfully poetic black and white simplicity of several pieces.
Norman Lewis (1909-79), Processional, 1965, Oil on Canvas
Moving and growing larger and more filled with light from left to right, Processional, evokes three Civil Rights marches from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.

Ming Smith, America Seen Through Stars and Stripes, New York, NY, 1979, gelatin silver print
Adger Cowans (b. 1936), Shadows, NY, 1961, gelatin silver print

She had several color favorites, two of which involved fabric.
Sam Gilliam (b. 1933), Carousel Change, 1970, acrylic on canvas and leather string

She particularly enjoyed talking with husband and wife artists Wadsworth and Jae Jarrell.
Wadsworth (center: white tee shirt) and Jae Jarrell as Jae describes one of her fashion designs 

Jae Jarrell (b. 1935) made artistic statements though her clothing fabrications, one of the most of famous of which is her two piece Revolutionary Suit where she replaced bullets with oil pastels in the bandolier.

And then her husband painted Angela Davis (from a photograph) wearing it.

Wadsworth Jarrell (b. 1929), Revolutionary (Angela Davis), 1971, acrylic and mixed media on canvas

Jae Jarrell in her suit some time in the 1970's
Ciwt plans to return tomorrow when the de Young is having a Block Party public opening for Soul of a Nation and the entire museum is free for all visitors.  Guess she'll learn then how it is being received.

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