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A Site of Struggle: American Art Against Anti-Black Violence

January 22-July 10, 2022
Main Gallery

How has art has been used to protest, process, mourn, and memorialize anti-Black violence within the United States?

Originating at Northwestern's Block Museum of Art  A Site of Struggle explores how artists have engaged with the reality of anti-Black violence and its accompanying challenges of representation in the United States over a 100 + year period.

Images of African American suffering and death have constituted an enduring part of the nation’s cultural landscape, and the development of creative counterpoints to these images has been an ongoing concern for American artists. A Site of Struggle takes a new approach to looking at the intersection of race, violence, and art by investigating the varied strategies American artists have used to grapple with anti-Black violence, ranging from representation to abstraction and from literal to metaphorical. The exhibition focuses on works created between the 1890s and 2013—situating contemporary artistic practice within a longer history of American art and visual culture. It foregrounds African Americans as active shapers of visual culture and highlights how art has been used to protest, process, mourn, and memorialize anti-Black violence.

Exhibition Advisors and Partnerships

The themes, content, and format of A Site of Struggle have been developed in consultation with an interdisciplinary group of established and emerging scholars, museum professionals, and Northwestern faculty and graduate students. Participants are connected by their investigations of American art, visual culture, and African Americans’ production and representation within these fields.

Advised by leaders across Northwestern and within the Evanston community, The Block has engaged in dialogues with stakeholders that will continue throughout 2021 in order to shape visitor experience and co-develop collaborative programming on issues of racial justice. This work will enrich A Site of Struggle programming and will lay a foundation for our work into the future.

The Block Museum exhibition will tour to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama August 13- November 6, 2022

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Exhibition Publication

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A Site of Struggle: American Art against Anti-Black Violence

  • Edited by Janet Dees

An important examination of how artists have grappled with anti-Black violence and its representations from the late nineteenth century to the present

Hardcover
Price:
$39.95 / £34.00
ISBN:
9780691209272
Published (US):
Jan 25, 2022
Pages:
160 / Size: 11 x 9 in. / Illus: 60 color illus.

 

 Investigating the conceptual and aesthetic strategies artists have used to engage with the issue of anti-Black violence, A Site of Struggle highlights diverse works of art and ephemera from the post-Reconstruction period of the late nineteenth century to the founding of the Black Lives Matter movement. Foregrounding the perspectives of African American cultural producers, this book examines three major questions: How are graphic portrayals of violence enlisted to protest horrors like lynchings? How have artists employed conceptual strategies and varying degrees of abstraction to avoid literal representations of violence? And how do artists explore violence through subtler engagements with the Black body? Ultimately, A Site of Struggle highlights the ubiquity and impact of anti-Black violence by focusing on its depictions; by examining how art has been used to protest, process, mourn, and memorialize this violence; and by providing the historical context for contemporary debates about its representation.

The book’s essays offer new perspectives from established and emerging scholars working in the fields of African American studies, art history, communications, and history. Contributors include Sampada Aranke, Courtney Baker, Huey Copeland, Janet Dees, Leslie Harris, and LaCharles Ward.

Published by Princeton University Press in association with the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University

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A Site of Struggle is organized by the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, and is curated by Janet Dees, Steven and Lisa Munster Tananbaum Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Block Museum of Art, with the assistance of Alisa Swindell, Curatorial Research Associate.

Lead support for the exhibition is generously provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Major support is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The project is also supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bernstein Family Contemporary Art Fund, the Myers Foundations, the Block DEAI Fund, and the Block Board of Advisors. Generous support is contributed by William Spiegel and Lisa Kadin, the Alumnae of Northwestern University, the David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg Arts Foundation, the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, and by Lynne Jacobs. The related publication is co-published by The Block Museum of Art and Princeton University Press and is supported by Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund and the Sandra L. Riggs Publication Fund.

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MEDIA KIT

Journalists are invited to download select images related to the exhibition. For additional media inquiries please contact Lindsay Bosch, Senior Manager of Marketing and Communications (lindsay.bosch@northwestern.edu)

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