Since early 2020 we have been enduring a worldwide pandemic with universal fear but unequal suffering. Last summer, the brutal and unforgivable deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of law enforcement stunned America and elicited an international response. These violent acts awakened others to the reality of the Black experience of daily acts of racist abuse, the familiar, unprovoked violence against young Black men, and an economic system structured to deprive equality and success and bolster the historic supremacy of White people. In Florida we are, sadly, too familiar with such tyranny after witnessing the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin and Corey Jones in 2015. Black Lives Matter was the immediate outcry, evolving into an activist organization working to change the relationship between Black and White people.
This exhibition, in part, presents art by Black artists – most of which was created before this summer – revealing racism, violence against Black bodies, and legalized discrimination practiced in America that have been for too long an experience for too many. Using personal stories, this country’s history, as well as popular culture and fictional narratives, Black artists ask us to consider this reality through their artworks: art finds a way to make us think, feel and act.
Art can also be a refuge and source for contemplation and a means to escape. Artists consider the exceptional and the ordinary, reflecting on experiences with hope and optimism about the future and creating a new narrative of joy, no longer defined by others or the past. Even art that may have been made to address formal concerns can be read as meditative or spiritual in an environment such as the one we currently face.
The true artist is compelled to make art. Over the centuries, artists have wrestled with this need as well as the power their efforts have on viewers and participants. Art is an offering or, even, a provocation. Art is by, about and for us. Art finds a way.
Director of Curatorial Affairs / Glenn W. and Cornelia T. Bailey Curator of Contemporary Art
Organized by the Norton Museum of Art.
Support for this exhibition was provided by The Mr. and Mrs. Hamish Maxwell Exhibition Endowment and The Michael M. Rea Endowment for Special Exhibitions.