Looking into a mirror, the black women asked “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the finest of them all?”. Today there is no such a question, however, in the 80s the answer would have been “the white one”. Carrie Mae Weems and 50 more black radical female artists in “We Wanted A Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85” exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum from April 21 until 17th of September, 2017. The exhibition features conceptual, performance, film, and video art, as well as photography, painting, sculpture, and printmaking. How not to confuse Coreen Simpson and Lorna Simpson? Which artist shows the best sense of humor? Who did what? Here is your guide through at least some of the artists to check before the exhibition. 

Faith Ringgold’s Prints

Among The Artist Workers’ Coalition protest demands to MoMA on 28 January 1969 were a section of the museum directed by Black artists to present the accomplishments of Black artists and Museum activities in the “Black, Spanish, and other” communities and exhibits that these groups could identify with. One of the leaders of the protest was Faith Ringgold. She is, probably, most famous for her posters. The names of her 1970s prints speak for themselves: Woman free yourself, United States of Africa, The Peoples Flag Show, Committee to Defend the Black Panthers. 

Ain’t Jokin’

In 1983, Carrie Mae Weems completed her first collection of photographs, text, and spoken word, called Family Pictures and Stories. The images told the story of her family, and she has said that in this project she was trying to explore the movement of black families out of the South and into the North, using her family as a model for the larger theme. Her next series, called Ain’t Jokin’, was completed in 1988. It focused on racial jokes and internalized racism. With this series, Carrie Mae Weems has probably become the most sarcastic artist of the movement.

Lorna Simpson Or Coreen Simpson

These two artists both appear in the exhibition. It’s important to know that they are not sisters and have never worked together. They basically have just one thing in common: a focus on the woman. However, their approaches are completely different: while Lorna explores the ways to depict inner feelings and searches for female strength, Coreen only adorns her already powerful characters.

Lorna Simpson emerged with her signature style of “photo-text”, in which graphic text is inserted into studio-like portraiture, bringing new conceptual meaning into the works. Her most famous work is probably the Eyes in the Back of Your Head (1991) series, where the artist focuses on a hostility the women can anticipate as a result of the combination of her gender and color of her skin.

Coreen Simpson started as a fashion photographer.  Her images have appeared in Vogue, Essence, Ms. Magazine, Paris Match, The New York Times, The Village Voice and numerous books and periodicals. ” In 1990 she launched her signature piece, The Black Cameo. Each jewelry piece of the collection is always a spectacular and hyperbolized piece of art that makes a woman wearing it look magnificent and invincible.

 Betye and Alison Saar

Unlike previous two, Betye and Alison Saar are alliance, but we should not confuse the mother and the daughter. Betye Saar has always worked mostly in collage technic. As a participant in the robust African-American Los Angeles art scene of the 1970s, Saar appropriated characters such as Aunt Jemima, Uncle Tom, and other stereotypes from folk culture and advertising in her works.

Her daughter Alison continues her mother’s attention to the marginalization of both women and minorities but in sculpture. Referencing African and Afro-Caribbean art in her work, she often alludes to mythological narratives or rituals that fuel notions of history and identity.

Video Art

Video Art part of the exhibition will be probably represented by the names of Christin Choy and Susan Robenson, who shot the Teach Our Children film in 1972. The work connects the 1971 Attica Prison rebellion with struggles for power in black and Puerto Rican communities.As told by Strublog, as such, it’s a landmark film, but somewhat tough to see today (available on DVD but at institutional pricing, so mostly available through university libraries), so it’s a good chance to see some of it.

Today many of those who wanted a revolution are a part of MoMA’s collection, they are often exhibited and their artworks are being sold. The Art is no more a question of color, so Brooklyn Museum exhibition is both a retrospective and a result of the revolution a diverse group of artists and activists who lived and worked at the intersections of avant-garde art worlds, radical political movements, and profound social change, have made.

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