Faith Ringgold Brings Politically Charged ’60s Paintings to Museum of Fine Art
Feb. 2 - May 19, 2007
Spelman College Museum of Fine Art showcased an expansive volume of work by artist and political activist Faith Ringgold with the exhibition “American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s.” On view Feb. 2 through May 19, 2012, the exhibition explores the emotional, and at times, tumultuous connections between race, gender, politics and class during the1960s.
Ringgold, whose work is in the permanent collection of several prominent museums, including The Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, is widely known for her story quilts ─ art that combines painting, quilted fabric and storytelling. This exhibition, however, marks the Atlanta premiere of paintings from her “American People” (1963-1967) and “Black Light” (1967-1971) series and related political posters. Created during the pivotal Civil Rights Movement, “American People,” wrote Ringgold is, “about the condition of Black and White in America . . . I felt called upon to create my vision of the Black experience we were witnessing.”
The first painting in the “American People” series, “Between Friends,” delves into the paradoxes of integration. Three other paintings in the same series, “The Flag Is Bleeding,” “U.S. Postage Stamp Commemorating the Advent of Black Power” and “Die,” examine the hierarchies of power and equality. The “Black Light” series celebrates the diversity of complexions among African-Americans and examines standards of beauty as dealt with by African-Americans in the 1960s and how those standards were assessed by the European Americans.
“In the 1960s when Faith Ringgold created the majority of works featured in ‘American People, Black Light,’ no one wanted to buy, exhibit or discuss the work and ignored her perspectives about race and gender,” said Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, museum director. “With only a few notable exceptions the work disappeared from view. These early paintings made such an impact on the artist’s formidable career and informed the story quilts for which Ringgold is internationally celebrated. As the museum celebrates its 15th anniversary and reexamines the lives, work, and careers of Black women artists, it is a privilege to present these works in Atlanta for the first time.”
“American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s” was curated by Miami Art Museum director Thom Collins and Neuberger Museum of Art Curator and Purchase College associate professor of art history Tracy Fitzpatrick with students from the Purchase College, SUNY, spring 2010 Art History Exhibition Seminar
The Museum of Fine Art collaborated with NBAF, presenters of the National Black Arts Festival, on programming events, held in conjunction with the exhibition, which focused on African-American art collecting and storytelling.