In the age of the Black Lives Matter Movement, activists are frequently taking to the streets to call attention to the killing of black Americans by police officers and white vigilantes nationwide. The media's attention and heavy police presence at the marches for black lives often focuses on gauging the degree of peacefulness maintained during the protests—often overshadowing protesters' demands and the black community's rage and resistance to police brutality, racism, and the history of misrepresentation their communities have faced. Now, an experimental group exhibition at the BronxArtSpace, Reclaimed Rage; Resistance, uses painting, photography and sculpture to explore the contemporary relationship between black rage and resistance.
"I have always taken social injustice very personally, which has always manifested as rage for me," explains curator Dalaeja Foreman to Creators. "Oppression driven societal rage has influenced the resistant nature of these artists work, directly or indirectly. By exposing the diverse ways in which rage is manifested in working-class communities, this art show addresses these varying expressions as well as the conditions that create them. For Foreman, who is also an organizer with the People Power Movement in the Bronx, the staging of the exhibition in the community is a way for her to use the works to legitimize working class communities' "righteous anger." It also serves to expose institutional oppressions and resistance to them as a way to "begin to discuss the possibilities for community control and independent politics." The exhibition, which is presented by the artist collective BLACK FOLK, offers a series of programs aimed at empowering the local community. BLACK FOLK has also produced a South Bronx community resource zine in collaboration with People Power Movement and Eztudio 43.
Many of the works in the exhibition represent how black rage has often turned into an art of remembrance. There Are No Second Chances, a collaborative portrait project created by Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School freshmen and sophomores, honors the lives of black and latinx victims of police brutality in 2016. Mounted in the exhibition are nearly 80 portraits—of the more than 250 the project generated—with descriptions the students made that explains the victims causes of death. The portrait of Derianté Deon Miller, who lived 18 years, reads, "Brother was killed by the same officer in 2010. Four years prior to his his death he had an altercation with the same trooper." "This was an art piece that showed the true side of the people that were killed by policeman," explains Hector Aponte, a Fannie Lou Hamer student who participated in creating the portraits. "Not all of them were good, and not all of them were bad, but all of them were part of the minority. Seeing all the faces was really heartbreaking because with every line I traced, I thought about how it could've been me," he adds.
Photographs by Jonathan Gardenhire and Adrienne Rose picture personal liberations. Rose's untitled black-and-white triptych from 2014 seems to capture the artist in a state of subliminal freedom. Gardenhire's pictures seem to be interested in using history to create context to render self-possessed black maleness. "Grillz #1" pictures just the mouth of a brown-skinned man with gold and diamonds encrusted over his teeth. The image alludes to the ways in which self-fashioning is an expression of self-control and claiming identity. The formal portrait,"Untitled (Shomari)," of a young black male against a pink backdrop, which is mounted near Gardenhire's "Origin of the World" photograph of black men and books and "Untitled (Black Confession/ American Hunger)," an appropriated passage from Richard Wright's 1945 memoir, Black Boy, work together to give image to the process of reconstructing identity and race out of a disempowered past. Milo Mathieu's three collages from the 99¢ Series, which evokes black rage 20th century, and Shani Peters' series of wooden diptychs of terms from black thinkers and American icons like James Baldwin, continue the exhibition's use of black rage as a way to visualize resistance as aggression, resistance as reclamation, and resistance as action.
"Rage is a natural and healthy reaction to the constant implicit and explicit state-driven attacks brought on by capitalism and the legacy of racism in the United States and all of the nations plagued by a history of colonization, imperialism, and erasure," believes Foreman. "In an attempt to tap into the idea of rage, itself as a cathartic experience, this exhibition is meant to challenge the internalized demonization of rage within working-class communities in order to utilize that it for solution building and reclaiming of self against the forces that attempt to write our narratives for us."
Reclaimed Rage; Resistance continues through March 11 at BronxArtSpace. Click here, for more information.