“We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85” Exhibition

Brooklyn Museum

poster for “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85” Exhibition
[Image: Jan van Raay (American, born 1942). Faith Ringgold (right) and Michele Wallace (middle) at Art Workers Coalition Protest, Whitney Museum (1971) Courtesy of Jan van Raay, Portland, OR, 305-37. © Jan van Raay]

This event has ended.

A Year of Yes: Reimagining Feminism at the Brooklyn Museum continues with We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85. Focusing on the work of more than forty black women artists from an under-recognized generation, the exhibition highlights a remarkable group of artists who committed themselves to activism during a period of profound social change marked by the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, the Women’s Movement, the Anti-War Movement, and the Gay Liberation Movement, among others. The groundbreaking exhibition reorients conversations around race, feminism, political action, art production, and art history,writing a broader, bolder story of the multiple feminisms that shaped this period. We Wanted a Revolution is on view April 21 through September 17, 2017.

We Wanted a Revolution is organized by Catherine Morris, Sackler Family Senior Curator for the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, and Rujeko Hockley, Assistant Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art and formerly Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Brooklyn Museum.

We Wanted a Revolution features a wide array of work, including conceptual, performance, film, and video art, as well as photography, painting, sculpture, and printmaking, reflecting the aesthetics, politics, cultural priorities, and social imperatives of this period. It begins in the mid-1960s, as younger activists began shifting from the peaceful public disobedience favored by the Civil Rights Movement to the more forceful tactics of the Black Power Movement. It moves through multiple methods of direct action and institutional critique in the 1970s, and concludes with the emergence of a culturally based politics focused on intersecting identities of race, gender, class, and sexuality in the early 1980s.

Artists in the exhibition include Emma Amos, Camille Billops, Kay Browne, Vivian E. Brown, Linda Goode Bryant, Beverly Buchanan, Carole Byard, Elizabeth Catlett, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Ayoka Chenzira, Christine Choy and Susan Robeson, Blondell Cummings, Julie Dash, Pat Davis, Jeff Donaldson, Maren Hassinger, Janet Henry, Virginia Jaramillo, Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarrell, Lisa Jones, Lois Mailou Jones, Barbara Jones-Hogu, Carolyn Lawrence, Samella Lewis, Dindga McCannon, Barbara McCullough, Ana Mendieta, Senga Nengudi, Lorraine O’Grady, Howardena Pindell, Faith Ringgold, Alva Rogers, Alison Saar, Betye Saar, Coreen Simpson, Lorna Simpson, Ming Smith, and Carrie Mae Weems.

Organized in a general chronology around a key group of movements, collectives, actions, and communities, the exhibition builds a narrative based on significant events in the lives of the artists. These include: Spiral and the Black Arts Movement; the “Where We At” Black Women Artists collective; Art World activism, including the Art Workers’ Coalition (AWC), the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition (BECC), Women, Students and Artists for Black Art Liberation (WSABAL), and the Judson Three; Just Above Midtown Gallery; the Combahee River Collective and Black feminism; Heresies magazine; the A.I.R. Gallery exhibition Dialectics of Isolation: An Exhibition of Third World Women Artists of the United States; and the Rodeo Caldonia High-Fidelity Performance Theater collective.

We Wanted a Revolution presents lesser-known histories alongside iconic works such as Elizabeth Catlett’s Homage to My Young Black Sisters (1968), Jae Jarrell’s Urban Wall Suit (1969), Lorraine O’Grady’s Mlle Bourgeoise Noire (1982),and Barbara Chase-Riboud’s monumental sculpture Confessions for Myself (1972). Other works on view include Faith Ringgold’s rarely seen painting For the Women’s House, which she made for the New York City Correctional Institution for Women at Rikers Island in 1971; Maren Hassinger’s large-scale sculptural installation Leaning (1980), which has only been exhibited once before, in 1980; films by Camille Billops and Julie Dash; and Howardena Pindell’s iconoclastic 1980 video work Free, White and 21. Also on view are early photographs from the mid-1980s by Lorna Simpson documenting the Rodeo Caldonia High-Fidelity Performance Theater, a group of women artists, performers, and filmmakers based in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, of which she was a part; as well as newly unearthed ephemera and documentation relating to the “Where We At” Black Women Artists collective and Linda Goode Bryant’s influential gallery and alternative space, Just Above Midtown.

“Working within tightly knit and often overlapping personal, political, and collaborative creative communities, the artists in this exhibition were committed to self-determination, free expression, and radical liberation. Their lives and careers advance a multidimensional understanding of the histories of art and social change in the United States in the second half of the twentieth century,” said Rujeko Hockley. Catherine Morris added, “This exhibition injects a new conversation into mainstream art histories of feminist art in a way that expands, enriches, and complicates the canon by presenting some of the most creative artists of this period within a political, cultural, and social conversation about art-making, race, class, and gender. The resulting work, sometimes collaborative and other times contentious, continues to resonate today.”

The exhibition will travel to the California African American Museum, Los Angeles (fall 2017), Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo (winter 2018), and Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (summer 2018). Two related volumes will be published by the Brooklyn Museum: a sourcebook of writings from the period and a book of new essays by art historians Huey Copeland, Aruna D’Souza, Kellie Jones, and Uri McMillan. D’Souza, Jones, and McMillan will also participate in a related symposium on April 21 at the Museum.



from April 21, 2017 to September 17, 2017

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