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Exhibition examines what’s changed since the Black Power movement – and what hasn’t

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Exhibition examines what’s changed since the Black Power movement – and what hasn’t

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Many are familiar with the iconic photo of Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton sitting in a rattan peacock chair, with a spear in one hand and a shotgun in the other.

Taken in 1968, the image would become one of the defining symbols of Black Power – a cultural and political movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s that emphasized black pride and self-determination.

It is also the inspiration for “Theorist’s Throne”, a work by Radcliffe Bailey, made in 2012, which recreates the peacock chair in miniature, covers it in sequins and encloses it in a bell. By remixing this historical symbol, the piece captures exactly what “This Tender, Fragile Thing” is, a new exhibition at the Jack Shainman Gallery in upstate New York.

Radcliffe Bailey, Theorist’s Throne, 2012. Credit: Jack Shainman Gallery

Opening January 15, the show explores the legacy of the Black Panthers and how they have influenced artists today, featuring Black Panther memorabilia alongside the work of contemporary black artists.

“There is a lot to learn from [Black] Panther Party,” Bailey, one of dozens of artists whose work is featured in the exhibit, told CNN. side by side something else stands out that is unique.”

Exhibition examines what’s changed since the Black Power movement – and what hasn’t

 | Local News

Barkley L. Hendricks, Michael BPP (Black Panther Party), 1971. Credit: Courtesy of Barkley L. Hendricks Estate and Jack Shainman Gallery

For curator and gallery founder Jack Shainman, “This Tender, Fragile Thing” is a reflection on progress – both the immense force required to achieve it and the care required to maintain its results. By juxtaposing the historical and the contemporary, she asks the question: what has changed since the 1960s and how far should we go?

“The murder of George Floyd caught the world’s attention and caused people to really confront the racism that was and still is prevalent in America,” he wrote in an email to CNN. “While the outpouring of support from white Americans was encouraging, the headlines are fading and the outrage is subsiding. Progress is not only guaranteed with time. Mounting this exhibit now is hopefully a reminder of that.”

Shainman said one of the show’s goals was to provide a more complete picture of the Black Panthers, an organization that has long been mistakenly viewed as an anti-white militant group. In reality, the organization advocated for self-defense in the face of attacks, rallied around its white allies, and developed social programs for the community.

In March, the gallery plans to hold a conference with President Fred Hampton Jr. of the Black Panther Party Cubs and Akua Njeri (formerly Deborah Johnson), the son and widow of President Fred Hampton. As leader of the Panthers’ Illinois chapter, Hampton Sr. led community service efforts in Chicago, such as free health clinics and breakfasts, before he was killed by police in 1969.
Exhibition examines what’s changed since the Black Power movement – and what hasn’t

 | Local News

John Simmons, Free Huey, 1968. Credit: Courtesy of John Simmons and Jack Shainman Gallery

“This show only scratches the surface of everything the Black Panthers had and have done since their inception, but a big goal of the show is for viewers to have the seed of thought and critical awareness that it it was an incredibly multi-faceted organization that went above and beyond for its community,” Shainman said.

“This Tender, Fragile Thing” is a revisit of an exhibition organized by the gallery in 2005. The previous exhibition, “The Whole World Is Rotten”, also considered the Black Panthers in a contemporary context. Although this year’s exhibition includes some of the same works as the 2005 exhibition, it moves the conversation forward with pieces that better speak to the current moment.

Exhibition examines what’s changed since the Black Power movement – and what hasn’t

 | Local News

Nick Cave, Arm Peace, 2018. Credit: Courtesy of Nick Cave and Jack Shainman Gallery

One of these pieces is that of Arthur Jafa powerful 2016 work “Love is the message, the message is death.” The 7.5-minute video montage, set to Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam,” combines moments of untold pain with moments of pure joy to present a portrait of black life in the United States.

Nick Cave’s 2018 “Arm Peace,” a bronze arm protruding from the wall, with flowers resembling a funeral wreath, commemorates black people who have been killed by gun violence.

Exhibition examines what’s changed since the Black Power movement – and what hasn’t

 | Local News

Akinsanya Kambon, Oshoshi, 2011. Credit: Courtesy of Akinsanya Kambon and Jack Shainman Gallery

Elsewhere in the exhibition, artist and former Black Panther Akinsanya Kambon invokes the spirit of the organization through his ceramic sculptures. Drawing inspiration from African spirituality and religious traditions, his work is an expression of pride and recognition of history – a mission instilled in him when he was a Culture Lieutenant for the Sacramento Chapter of the Black Panther. Party.

“One of the things the Black Panther Party has done is it’s made me realize that if you’re an artist or if you come from a history of oppression and you make art, your art should be about those things,” Kambon told CNN. “Your art must challenge the system that puts you where you are.”

“This Tender, Fragile Thing” can be viewed at Jack Shainman Gallery: The School in Kinderhook, New York, from January 15 through April 30.

Top image: Gordon Parks, Untitled, Harlem, New York, 1963. © Gordon Parks Foundation. Courtesy of the Gordon Parks Foundation and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Exhibition examines what’s changed since the Black Power movement – and what hasn’t

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