How has art 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.
Darryl Cowherd Stop White Police from Killing Us – St. Louis, MO, c. 1966-67
Elizabeth Catlett, Civil Rights Congress, 1949
Melvin Edwards, Selections from Lynch Fragments Ida W.B., 1990
Dox Thrash, After the Lynching, late 1930s
Emory Douglas November 16, 1972, 1972
Carl and Karen Pope, Palimpsest, 1998-99
Elizabeth Catlett, Target Practice, 1970
8. Ida B. Wells, A Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Cause of Lynching in the United States 1892-1893-1894
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
Laylah Ali (American, b.1968), George Wesley Bellows (American, 1882-1925), George Biddle (American 1885-1973), Elizabeth Catlett (American, 1915-2012), Darryl Cowherd (American, b. 1940), Bob Crawford (American, 1938-2015), Ernest Crichlow (American, 1914-2005), David Antonio Cruz (American, b. 1974), Emory Douglas (American, b. 1943), Melvin Edwards (American, b. 1937), Theaster Gates (American, b. 1973), Ken Gonzales-Day (American, b. 1964), Wilmer Jennings (American, 1910-1990), Norman Lewis, (American, 1909-1979), Christian Marclay (American, b. 1955), Kerry James Marshall (American, b. 1955), Isamu Noguchi (American, 1904-1988), Mendi + Keith Obadike (American, b. 1973), Howardena Pindell (American b. 1943), Carl and Karen Pope (American, b. 1961), Walter Quirt (American, 1902-1968), Paul Rucker (American, b. 1968), Lorna Simpson (American, b. 1960), Dox Thrash (American, 1893-1965), Molly Jae Vaughan (British, b. 1977), Lynd Ward (American, 1905–1985), Pat Ward Williams (American, b. 1948), Carrie Mae Weems (American, b. 1953), Ida B. Wells (American, 1862-1931), Walter White (American, 1893-1955), Hale Woodruff (American, 1900-1980)
On 'A Site of Struggle'
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 Illinois Arts Council Agency, 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.
Aligned Academic Course: A Site of Struggle - Poetry, History and Social Justice
Kaplan Institute for the Humanities - Winter 2022
Responding to the question posed by the A Site of Struggle exhibition at the Block Museum—How has art been used to protest, process, mourn, and memorialize anti-black violence within the United States?—this course will focus on the reading and writing of poems that engage this difficult history. We will consider the function of poetry to document, bear witness, and to effect what Seamus Heaney called “the redress of poetry.” Along with reading poems that take up the subject, we will read several essays to undergird our discussion of the ethics of representation, positionality, and what it means to write about violence and trauma. In all of this, we will focus on the craft of writing poetry—metaphor, image, musicality, voice, etc.—with a focus on ekphrasis and intertextuality which will engage students in responding both to the works of art in the exhibition and the poems we will read in the course.